The Leatherman of solar in emerging communities

Marlene Snowdown was startled to learn how many people in previously disadvantaged communities, although living RDP homes, did not have geysers for water heating.

Marlene Snowdon

As a proponent of solar power and its potential to alleviate the burden on the national power grid, support sustainable communities and combat climate change, Marlene branched out her solar water heater distribution business, Inti Solar, into needy communities. Now she is something of a “Leatherman” of solar, with a multi-pronged approach to energising communities with the sun.

Her mission is to empower them with a sustainable source of free power, making them less reliant on other energy sources that are expensive, unsustainable or unhealthy and unsafe to use in their homes.

Marlene ventures into the heart of the communities to better understand their needs and how these can be addressed with innovatively-packed solar solutions.

Her belief is that every household should have access to their own solar-powered lighting and water heating systems. In her somewhat “socialist” pursuit to widen the reach of solar, she garners support from companies, municipalities and other stakeholders who can help bring her programmes to fruition.

For instance, Inti Solar is an Eskom-accredited solar water heater supplier and is part of the utility’s rebate programme. The company supplied the systems for the pilot of Eskom’s Low Pressure Solar Heater Roll-out Programme at Winterveld.

Through its work with local municipalities, Inti Solar is installing free solar water heaters in the following areas:

  • Cosmos City (9 000 homes)
  • Diepsloot (25 300 homes)
  • Zandspruit (4 500 homes)
  • O.R Tambo District (30 000 homes)
  • Musina (2 000 homes)

In conjunction with non-profit organisation, Mellon Housing, Inti Solar will install 8 000 solar geysers in 8 000 houses.

The company also partners with property developers focused on building greener homes as the preferred solar supplier on projects ranging from RDP homes to the upper-end market. Inti Solar recently introduced a turnkey solar solution to a large retail group which will assist consumers with financing the purchase of solar systems through its store card and loyalty programme. Through a partnership with a large pension funder, Inti Solar is supplying nifty Pensioner Packs – comprising a solar geyser and light – for free to pensioners. The corporate receives tax and carbon credits for its sponsorship of the programme.

Empowerment is at the core of her initiatives. Inti Solar has skills upliftment programme to train people from local communities to install, support and maintain solar systems.

Marlene is always on the hunt for better, more durable and more effective solar solutions. One of the products she is currently having tested by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is what she describes as a universal solar water heating solution. It is so effective that it can heat-up water to a bubbling 850C – hot enough to make a cup of tea without boiling a kettle or a pot on the stove.