IEA SHC Solar Award winner: social housing project in Namibia

Posted: 2022-10-23

IEA SHC Solar Award
Photos: IEA SHC

The ORVI Social Housing Project in Namibia has won the IEA SHC 2022 Solar Award. Leonhard Eins, Managing Director of the Namibian company Solsquare Energy, received the award during EuroSun 2022 at the end of September (see photo). Helvi IIeka, Centre Head of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the Namibia Energy Institute, joined the award ceremony online. The two of them were responsible for the installation of solar water heaters on 58 social houses built by the grape producers ORVI – short for Orange River Vineyard Investment. The project demonstrates that affordable living and ecological standards can work hand-in-hand.

The IEA SHC Award 2022 winner, the ORVI Social Housing Project, is a perfect example of affordable housing that has improved residents' standard of living, supported a national solar company and saves 120,000 kWh of electricity annually, which was otherwise produced by old coal-fired plants, according to the evaluation of IEA SHC Chairman Tomas Olejniczak.

Great example of how to solve energy poverty

Currently up to 15,000 permanent and seasonal workers from the grape farms live in traditional reed huts with no water, sanitary facilities or electricity, on the north bank of the Orange River, one of the hottest and driest spots in Namibia. ORVI developed a demonstration area with 58 low-cost individual homes accommodating its employees. All of them have a thermosiphon system with a 2.1 m2 flat-plate collector and a 160 litre tank supplied and installed by Solsquare Energy. The hot water is used for showers, washing clothes and in the kitchen. ORVI has also built a large photovoltaic system with 225 kWp on the farm and uses biochar for soil improvement and micropipe irrigation to keep water consumption low.

58 low-cost houses with solar water heaters for the workers in the grape-producing area in the south of Namibia, where temperatures around 0 °C are common in the winter months

Photo taken from the Youtube video about the project:

“The surprising factor was that even with the small systems we achieve a high solar fraction over the year,” said Eins. He sees the ORVI project as a great example of how to solve energy poverty.

SOLTRAIN, the Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative, supported the installation of the solar thermal systems financially. "We have received great support from SOLTRAIN for this outstanding project, which is a life changer for the families living there”, emphasised IIeka. The Namibia Energy Institute, the key partner of the SOLTRAIN project in Namibia, supervised the installation of the systems and conducted a successful quality assessment. Once ORVI has evaluated the demonstration project, the construction of such houses could continue.

Awards for outstanding achievements for solar heating and cooling

The SHC Solar Award recognises individuals, companies and private/public institutions that have shown outstanding leadership or achievements in solar heating and cooling. Some examples:

2019: Kyotherm, a French-based third-party investor, won the Award in 2019 for financing energy service companies. The first solar thermal project supported by Kyotherm was the 10 MW plant for a malt business in France

2017: The Climate and Energy Fund from Austria won the IEA SHC Award 2017 for its subsidy scheme for large-scale solar thermal plants for industry, district heating and cooling and commercial buildings that achieve a solar share in the total heat demand of more than 20 %.

Organisations mentioned in this news article: