Imagine life without an ATM. Or better yet, imagine life with an ATM that doesn’t work. Well, that was the situation for some people in Mpumalanga, South Africa were ATMs went offline for lack of electricity. Thanks to solar power, however, the banking industry is starting to shine brighter.
Call it fate or serendipity, but the first solar powered ATMs have come online in Mpumalanga, which in Zulu and several other languages means “the place where the sun rises”. The electric utility, Eskom, implemented rolling blackouts for the second time this year due to problems with its 4.1 GW coal-fired power plant. After seeing the problems with coal, banks and financial service providers finally seeing the light with solar power.
The ATMs were rolled out by, well, ATM Solutions, a subsidiary of Paycorp Holding in Johannesburg. The ATMs still use power from the grid, but the solar panels are paired with batteries to provide electricity during blackouts. During the field test, the solar powered ATM was online for a full week without much as sipping power from the grid. With this successful test, the company plans to power its other ATMs with solar power, especially in rural areas without access to reliable power supplies.
The development of a solar powered ATM is opening up possibilities for banks, particularly in areas where power is a problem (think tropical island paradises). An ATM gives tourists and locals easier access to cash that would undoubtedly spur business in these areas.
The irony is that banks don’t think that solar power systems are bankable. Call it poetic justice, but the solar ATM would proves them otherwise.