Kestrel Renewable Energy blows into new markets
Small wind turbine manufacturer Kestrel is fulfilling a need in rural Africa with a cheap and effective alternative to grid electricity. It is helping to power homes and farms in outlying areas where Africa’s still poor infrastructure is unable to fully penetrate.
Now the company is looking to market its product in both the UK and US after gaining the relevant certification. African Business Review asked the company’s Sales and Marketing Director Leon Gouws to tell us more about the expanding business and the relevance of sustainable energy alternatives for Africa.
ABR:How long has Kestrel been trading?
Leon Gouws:Kestrel Wind Turbines was established in 1999. Eveready (Pty) Ltd. purchased Kestrel Wind Turbines in 2006 and it is now trading as Kestrel Renewable Energy (Kestrel).
ABR:Why was the company started?
LG:There was a need and opportunity for small wind renewable energy solutions.
ABR: How many people does it employ and where is its manufacturing base?
LG: Kestrel is based at the Eveready head office in Port Elizabeth. Eveready currently employs 400 people of which 39 are Kestrel employees.
ABR: What impact has Kestrel’s small wind turbines made in South Africa?
LG: With the ever rising cost of electricity, Kestrel offers an alternative, cost effective solution to grid electricity.
Kestrel has given rural off-grid communities access to clean water and power, and enabled off-grid farms to enjoy reliable electricity generation and supply.
ABR: Since gaining certification in the UK and US, what has the reaction been to Kestrel’s products?
LG: Since gaining certification, we’ve had a very positive reaction. Our daily enquiries have and it has also changed the way that Kestrel is portrayed – everybody now knows that we are a leading small wind turbine manufacturer.
ABR:How is Kestrel marketing its products overseas?
We market our products internationally, mainly through our website and by interacting with dealers who promote our products. We also attend international shows e.g. AWEA Windpower Conference & Exhibition and carry out international PR.
ABR:Are there other markets the company is hoping to break into with this product and if so where are they and when does the company hope to break into them?
LG: Since our e400nb turbine has been UK (MCS) and USA (SWCC) certified, our focus lies mainly in the UK and USA. We are currently in the process of breaking into these markets.
ABR:What makes Kestrel’s small wind turbine stand out from its competitors?
Unlike a lot of other wind turbines manufacturers, Kestrel is backed by an established company (Eveready (Pty) Ltd.) with a world class manufacturing facility.
Kestrel’s wind turbines are fitted with a unique, patented pitch control, which enables it to withstand wind speeds of more than 120km/h without cutting out.
Kestrel is the first turbine in its class to be MCS and SWCC (conditional) certified.
ABR:How important is renewable energy for the African markets?
LG: Reasons why renewable energy is important for African markets:
· Sub Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of the continent’s population resides, accounts only for a quarter of the electricity generated in Africa.
· The modular nature of most renewable energy technologies and the low investment levels makes them particularly suitable for capital-constrained African countries.
· Renewable energy technologies utilize locally available resources and expertise and would therefore provide employment opportunities for the locals.
· Rural areas have poor electricity access and remain overly reliant on biomass sourced from dwindling forests.
· The African grid connection is immature and there is a huge need for electricity. It is essential for Africa to make use of renewable energy to achieve growth.
ABR: Are governments doing enough to support the renewable energy market and if not what do they need to be doing more of?
LG: Currently there are no incentive programs in place for small wind. Eskom’s Independent Demand Management (IDM) program only caters for systems between 10 kilowatt and 350 kilowatt, which is too big for residential use. If government were to subsidise smaller projects, making it affordable for home owners, the reliance on grid electricity would be much less.
NERSA is prohibiting the feed of power generated by renewable energy onto the national grid. This is putting strain on renewable energy companies, as grid connected systems are significantly cheaper as there is no need for battery banks, etc.
ABR: How is technology aiding the design and function of small wind turbines?
LG: As technology comes along, it is used to constantly improve the wind technology.
ABR: How will technology change the turbines of the future?
LG: Turbines might become lighter, more robust and less noisy.
ABR:Are there any plans to expand Kestrel’s business if so what are they?
LG: Yes, definitely. From a sales and marketing point of view we would like to grow our international markets and set up service and training centres in other countries. We are also planning to expand our product range to include bigger and smaller sized turbines.
ABR: Are there any major capital investments planned for 2013 and if so what are they?
LG: We are planning some capital investment as far as blade manufacturing is concerned.
Why Your Team Should Contribute to Open Source Projects
Much of the world’s software infrastructure, including that which underpins multibillion-dollar corporations, has been created and maintained by developers, often anonymous, who do it for free in their spare time.
This is the open-source software movement: software whose source code anyone can use and edit. It has united developers from all around the world to create, improve and iterate on flagship software: from well-known consumer products like Firefox and Android, through to key tech infrastructure like Kubernetes.
Open source has served as the training ground for a generation of programmers, developers, and software engineers. It has given them the opportunity to improve their skills and to self-direct, and get involved in projects that they find interesting and meaningful. In fact, according to a new survey, open-source skills are more valued than proprietary ones.
Around 30 years ago, open source-driven innovations were often academic endeavours, sponsored by university IT departments, where students were encouraged to contribute and learn software engineering skills while simultaneously benefiting the university and the wider world.
However, over the last ten years, the world of open source has changed. Today, open-source is seen as the innovation engine across large, forward-thinking enterprises. Organisations are increasingly eager to adopt open-source projects like Linux or Jenkins, whereby they not only leverage technologies but also provide resources to create and contribute to projects. For example, Facebook, Google or LinkedIn embrace open source by creating and building innovative software as communal projects. In fact, open-source technologies and influencers are seen as rock stars in industries from global banking to retailers.
We can see open source everywhere. Projects like Linux, Kubernetes, React.js, or Tensorflow are becoming ubiquitous in IT departments, while open source technologists are quickly becoming the most highly sought-after talent. Innovative organisations are clamouring to build open-source credentials to draw in the best talent to cope with the increasing digital demand on businesses.
Why we all benefit from open source
The ubiquity of open source software means that your organisation is probably already using some of these technologies, many in business-critical applications. By encouraging community participation, organisations have the opportunity to drive change that matters to their business today as well as drive technology innovation forward. Participating in open source helps in-house teams stay motivated and at the cutting edge. Developers want to work on projects they are passionate about. Letting them do this can improve morale, and allowing them to take on challenges they may not face when working on in-house software can help nurture creativity and new approaches.
What’s more, companies that are seen as supporters and leaders in open source are seen as innovators in their industry, increasing motivation internally and visibility externally. In addition, these organisations find it much easier to attract the best IT talent to their businesses in a virtuous cycle of innovation driving innovators.
In the end, there is a clear economic reason to get involved with open source - in 2018, open-source software added between €65 billion and €95 billion to the European economy. It is in everyone’s long-term interest to cultivate and nurture open source projects that can do far more commercial and social good than siloed in-house teams could alone.
Today’s challenge to the open-source movement
While the benefits are clear, some companies don’t see the immediate benefit in letting their teams contribute to open source projects and believe all of an employee’s productive energy should go into work that directly generates revenue. Some organisations have discouraged the use of and contribution to open-source projects in-house or even prevented employees from contributing outside of work.
However, even if companies don’t restrict their out-of-work activity, many developers with full-time jobs simply don’t have the time. Getting seriously into the weeds of an open-source project means a lot of time and energy on coding and fielding bug reports and support requests - often in numbers that an overwhelmed developer minority couldn’t possibly manage completely.
In her book, Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software, Nadia Eghbal notes that almost half of contributors across 275 popular GitHub projects only contributed once - accounting for under 2% of overall ‘commits’.
Helping open source communities helps us all
We all benefit from ensuring that open source projects retain their guiding hands and most experienced talent from a mixture of employed and volunteer contributors. While there will always be a new generation of younger programmers willing to build up their skills and take the reins of open source projects, full-time developers who are motivated and supported by their employers can leverage their experience to take these projects to the next level.
Open source communities should be considered as shared assets. Their engagement provides short- and long-term benefits for companies, contributors, and society as a whole. When it comes to open source communities, we should always keep in mind the classic problem of the tragedy of the commons - it is a shared space that benefits everyone, and we have to actively work to ensure that both developers creating and companies using open source software put in and take away a balanced contribution. The very companies that put the most energy into helping the open-source movement stand to gain the most from it flourishing.