The South African state utility Eskom is joining forces with Shell to invest $30 million in solar development for rural South Africa over three years, Reuters reports.

The project, which will be funded equally by the two partners, aims to bring stand-alone solar power units to perhaps 50 000 homes at a cost of around $8/month. The project is part of a five-year, $500 million initiative by Shell to diversify its energy portfolio.

The new solar home systems for South Africa will be capable of powering three low-voltage lamps and a small radio or television for around 4 hours each day. Each will cost around $800 to manufacture and will be operated on a fee-for-service basis.

The installation charge will be $30. After that $8 will pay for a magnetic card which will activate the system for 30 days. The project could provide 2.5 MW to regions beyond the reach of the Eskom grid.