Oolu Solar: A Review
Oolu is an off-grid solar company in West Africa with over 60,000 solar home systems sold to customers in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Oolu was founded in Senegal 2015 by Nilmi Senaratna and Dan Rosa, and incubated in Silicon Valley seed money start-up company, Y Combinator. Oolu was one of the first firms to successfully scale Pay-As-You-Go solar technology in the West African market.
The word 'Oolu' means 'trust' in an indigenous Senegalese language, Wolof. Oolu says it aims to provide sustainable energy and financial services to the 150 million people living off national grids in West Africa. Oolu's management team is made up of 50% women.
Originally headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, in 2018, Oolu entered the Nigerian alternative energy market as Oolu Energy Nigeria Limited, piloting its products in Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states. Oolu Energy Nigeria Limited has its head office at No. 33 Ademola Street Off Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Oolu's Financial Profile
In October 2017, Oolu announced the successful completion of US$3.2M round of Series A equity investment. This Series A fundraising was led by Persistent Energy Capital (PEC), and was joined by Y Combinator and other seed investors. Read full report here.
In December 2020, it announced that it had raised $8.5M in Series B equity investment. The Series B round of fundraising was led by independent renewable energy developer, RP Global. Other investors that participated include Persistent Energy Capital (PEC), Shell-seeded impact investor All On, Gaia Impact Fund, and DPI Energy Ventures. This brings Oolu Solar’s total investment to $11.7M making it one of the most valuable alternative energy company and a market leader in the region. Read full story here.
Oolu Solar Kits
Oolu uses the same pricing and payment system as the MTN Lumos. It offers two sets of off-grid home solar electricity kits: FAMILY and WOW SOLAR. Each of the two kits come with the following components and range of specifications.
A solar panel
A solar charge controller
A solar lithium battery
3-6 LED light with switches
19” Solar HD TV with safety function and low consumption functionality
USB cable for phone charger
Multiple brightness settings
Up to four (4) phone charges per day
Oolu also offers warranty and after-sales services on some of its financing plans. Oolu's monthly and annually Pay-As-You-Go payment system allows its customers to spread their investment in the kits over a period of time after which Oolu cedes ownership. Oolu processes payments in secure and easy instalments through mobile money or by direct money transfer.
Read Also: The Definitive Review of the MTN Lumos
Like the MTN Lumos solar kits, Oolu's kits great attraction is the investment plan that allows the user to spread his investment monthly or yearly. But unlike other central inverters, it is not able to perform very sophisticated functions and cannot power a wide range of appliances. Also, it can only be charged from the single solar panel.
Even though Oolu guarantees that its solar panels works well during cloudy days, concerns for for those who live in places and periods of the year when the sun does not shine daily still remains.
As a portable inverter, it cannot be upgraded with the incorporation of extra parts.
Oolu is a relatively new entry into the Nigerian market and the brand is not yet well known among users. In any case, Oolu targets low-income earners mostly in peri-urban and off-grid rural communities. To connect these remote communities, Oolu has agent networks in the places where it operates. Its agents are full-time employees who also provide after-sales support to its consumers given their proximity to them. Their agents can quickly visit a consumer’s home when the need arises reducing abandonment of failed solar systems.
Oolu says it hopes to reach 1 million Nigerian households and businesses within the next three years.
As always, for urban users in Lagos and throughout Nigeria, SolarKobo can recommend and design more reliable solar-battery-inverter systems that can be procured at a similar cumulative cost of Oolu's kit or even less with the help of an initial down-payment and a post-installation plan that can be spread over a period reaching up to twelve months.