SOLTRAIN 4, Newsletter #5

A challenging but successful year

Werner Weiss

As I already described in SOLTRAIN Newsletter #3 in August, none of the SOLTRAIN team imagined that the technical train the trainer courses and the policy workshops held at the beginning of the year would be the last time in 2020 that we would be able to convene in person and on-site in the respective partner countries.

Soon afterwards, however, it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would limit travel enough to disrupt planned activities, and that the only option was to convene them online. The SOLTRAIN team reacted quickly and decisively to the new situation. 

In order to maintain the best possible communication flow between all partners, we introduced monthly online Steering Committee meetings and converted all training courses to a hybrid format. This meant that in the partner countries, the course participants met on-site in compliance with the respective COVID-19 guidelines. Participants from AEE INTEC and Kuda Ndhlukula from SACREEE were all connected via an online web platform.

Against all expectations, this format worked extremely well from the start, both technically and in terms of content. Between March and November, we were able to conduct seven technical training courses, seven policy workshops and nine sector information workshops.

The solar companies also remained very active in 2020 despite the pandemic restrictions, and have used the time effectively between the lock-down phases to install a number of solar thermal systems.  

One of these systems was completed in November in Lesotho. In this regard, SolarSoft has installed four thermosyphon systems, each with a storage capacity of 150 litres, on the newly built Setona townhouses in Maseru.

Despite these successes, we have all missed personal meetings and the intensive exchange of new ideas throughout 2020.
However, we are once again optimistic that we will be able to intensify our successful cooperation again in the coming year and are therefore planning for physical meetings for 2021.

I would like to thank the entire SOLTRAIN team in the six partner countries and SACREEE for their excellent cooperation in this challenging year. Special thanks also go to the Austrian Development Agency, which this year succeeded in securing the full funding for the SOLTRAIN project, which was uncertain due to the withdrawal of OFID.

Four thermosiphon systems were installed on a townhouse development in Maseru
Rudi Moschik and Monika Spoerk-Duer from AEE INTEC with the participants of the train the trainer course in Botswana


In keeping with one of the main elements of the SOLTRAIN programme, that of raising awareness on the potential of solar thermal technologies, SOLTRAIN has published five themed leaflets. The leaflets are available in PDF format for digital use and have also been designed to print well. You can download and distribute the leaflets from the links below.

SOLTRAIN policy workshops successfully concluded

Samson Mhlanga

Four SOLTRAIN policy workshops and three housing sector information workshops were convened in the latter part of November this year. Through these, a total of 66 people participated in the policy workshops held in Cape Town, Windhoek, Harare and Maseru, while the three housing sector information workshops included 25 participants.

The main purpose of the policy workshops, which were organized in close cooperation with SADC Centre of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), was to mobilise funding for the implementation of the SOLTRAIN Solar Thermal Roadmaps and Implementation Plans that had been developed for all partner countries during phase 3 of the project.

The primary aim of the housing sector workshops was to inform about the potential of solar energy for hot water preparation in residential buildings.


In Zimbabwe, participants of the policy workshop included representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Climate Change and Management Department in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in charge of building and maintenance of all government buildings, the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe (REAZ) and universities. They all expressed enthusiasm for upgrading their knowledge and acquiring the necessary skills in order to realise the potential of solar thermal for clinics, hospitals, hostels, government apartments and other buildings.

Timing of the housing workshop was opportune, with a number of hospital and student resident projects being built around the country and financed by Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe. West Property, a housing company, also participated, sharing a technical challenge involving an apartment building installation for a hot water system with limited roof space.

Outcomes of the workshop included the establishment of a collaboration with local SOLTRAIN partners and regional and international partners, with technical input from AEE INTEC and the planning of a dissemination course by the local partners and National University of Science and Technology including advanced training supported by Rudi Moschik and Werner Weiss of AEE INTEC in the first quarter of 2021.


In Namibia the participants of the Policy workshop were mainly from NamPower (utility), Electricity Control Board (regulator), Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Ministry of Works and Transport Development, Bank of Namibia, Ministry of Finance, National Training Authority, United Nations Development Programme, National Youth Services and some private sector stakeholders.

In both the Zimbabwean and Namibian workshops, the need for the country Solar Thermal Roadmap and Implementation Plans to be converted into bankable documents was emphasised. The process of acquiring finance for this stage will be undertaken by these two countries.

Workshop attendees in Maseru, Lesotho
Workshop attendees in Harare, Zimbabwe
Workshop attendees in Cape Town, South Africa

SOLTRAIN-funded solar hybrid project

Kevin N. Nwaigwe and Ditiro Setlhaolo

In 2020, SOLTRAIN awarded bursaries to qualifying research students in its five partner countries. One of the recipients was Kago Rabasoma from University of Botswana.  His project involves fabricating a working model of a solar absorber and nocturnal radiator hybrid system (“SAANR”). The system is intended to harness solar energy during the day to produce hot water and then use nocturnal radiation to produce cool water. The hot water can then be used in the evenings for domestic purposes such as washing and bathing, and then the cool water can be used during the day. The main supervisor of this work is Dr Kevin Nwaigwe with co-assistance from Dr Ditiro Setlhaolo.

The major components include an electric constant flow pump, two insulated storage tanks, one for hot water and the other for cold water, insulated chlorinated polyvinyl chloride plumbing and valves to facilitate process switching and the SAANR panel. The SAANR panel is made of plywood on the exterior, with an oxidized aluminium thin absorber plate that was selected due to its reasonably favourable performance for both solar absorption and nocturnal radiation, as well as being locally available. Risers comprising 15mm copper pipes in a harp arrangement, as well as the panel, are covered by regular glass to reduce convection effects.

Kago was motivated by the global and local energy crisis and climate change caused by excessive use of fossil fuels to pursue a project aimed at investigating alternative sources of energy to meet our hot water and building envelope conditioning needs. He first carried out a numerical study of the topic, through which he developed a mathematical model for the SAANR hybrid panel and then simulated it with the aid of the MATLAB software. The simulation produced impressive results which paved way for an experimental study.

The fabrication of the SAANR hybrid system has been completed at University of Botswana Projects Lab, and has been tested to produce some promising preliminary results. The system runs on two separate loops, the hot loop which occurs during the day to produce hot water, and the cold loop which occurs at night to produce cold water. Valves are used to switch between these process loops. During testing, the hybrid system has been able to produce hot water of up to 70 °C and has reached a minimum of 22 °C for the cool water in summer conditions. The performance recorded thus far is more than sufficient for applications of the hybrid system, and the system will be useful in rural areas which are not connected to the electricity grid in order to supply residents with hot water and room conditioning facilities. To ensure non-dependence on grid electricity, Kago is working towards powering the pump with a solar-PV system.

Prototype of the hybrid thermal system

Lesotho’s Contribution to Net Zero

Ivan Yaholnitsky

Countries, cities, organizations and corporations around the world are, on a  daily basis, making impressive commitments to decarbonize their economic activities.  Most of these commitments are framed against a deadline, 2030, 2040, 2050, etc. using the term “Net Zero.”  I do not know if the Government of Lesotho has any official word to say on the matter and I will not pretend to speak for it.  Sustainable development is a decision everyone can make immediately, implement and engage.

Dr. Julie Pierce on Twitter says:

"Getting to net zero *fast* will require everything from structural changes at the global level to changes in basic household habits. Let’s support and draw attention to people and groups facilitating a switch to climate-friendly living. #ClimateAction"

This caught my eye because I like the reference to people and groups.  While we can think globally, all that anyone can ever do is act locally.  Yes, there are people like the President of the World Bank and Secretary General of the UN, but their power is limited to responding to what is actually working on the ground, and can never be a replacement for it.

If SOLTRAIN Roadmap implementation in Lesotho suddenly gained enormous vigour and momentum, then some large agencies would respond and provide assistance.  Synergies can make a difference.  Universal clean energy in Lesotho is possible using solar technology.  I cannot imagine living without basic amenities like piped water, and appliances such as refrigeration and clothes washing machines.

The majority of people in Lesotho, however, do not have them.  Solar technology can spread rapidly to achieve the SDGs by 2030, but it requires vigorous action by everyone, consumers, innovators, entrepreneurs, marketers, educators and policymakers.  Thermal energy systems can only work within an eco-system of piped water and electrical energy supply. 

While solar ovens and cookers do not require much ancillary support, they are less relevant in a context where food security is precarious, as it is throughout much of Lesotho.  The SDGs and Net Zero are a struggle of a lifetime.  The Cat in the Hat stumbled, juggling and doing many things. But as everyone knows, he returned and cleaned up the mess and restored order in the Universe.  We can too.

SOLTRAIN demonstration system installed at Holy Trinity High School, Quthing, a few months ago

SOLTRAIN participates at Bostwana's Virtual STEM Festival & National Science Week

Ditiro Setlhaolo

Clean Energy Research Centre contributed to Botswana’s virtual Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) festival and the National Science Week held at the beginning of October by showcasing the SOLTRAIN trailer, introducing SOLTRAIN and highlighting the benefits of solar thermal systems on energy supply, poverty alleviation, job creation and CO2 emission reduction. The demonstration of the trailer was done by our Senior Project Technician, Mr Mike Lethapa.

This is in line with the Botswana Government’s national targets of increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the energy mix in 2030 in order to reduce dependency on the grid power and meet the increasing demand. The Government has committed to achieve an overall emissions reduction of 15% by 2030.

The objectives of the two events were to allow public institutions and industry to showcase their STEM niches on which their businesses leverage as they contribute to national socioeconomic upliftment. The five-day event was honored by the Botswana International University of Science & Technology Chancellor and former President H.E. Dr Festus G. Mogae, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology Hon. Dr Douglas Letsholathebe and many other distinguished guests. More than 5 000 stakeholders, among them pupils, students, academia, businesses, community, captains of industry, local authorities, media and the public converged online to celebrate these two events.

One of the STEM benefits is to encourage the students to be innovative and to prepare them for college through STEM education, and to promote creativity, leadership, decision-making, acceptance of failure, critical thinking and problem-solving, and through SOLTRAIN, the students can also develop projects involving solar thermal technology.

SOLTRAIN objectives are in line with the Botswana Government national targets of increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the energy mix in the coming years in order to reduce dependency on the grid power and meet the increasing demand. The Government has committed to achieving an overall emissions reduction of 15% by 2030, with SOLTRAIN well placed to contribute significantly to this goal. SOLTRAIN’s activities aligned with the recently approved Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) which envisages the contribution of renewable energy at close to 20% of Botswana’s electricity generation mix, thus exceeding the target of 15% by 2030.


The SOLTRAIN Trailer at Botswana’s virtual STEM Festival and Science week


The Southern African Solar Thermal Training & Demonstration Initiative is a regional initiative for capacity building & demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region. It is funded by the Austrian Development Agency. Please visit SOLTRAIN on the web at for more about the programme.


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