Harvesting solar energy

Thursday, 9 May, 2013
More and more wine farms in South Africa are opting to install Solar PV technology onto their estates, with the view to reducing their carbon footprint, create a sustainable energy resource and become less reliant on the national energy grid.
According to Sean Peris of Southern Sun Solar, PTY, the wine industry has long had a tradition of trying to be of as little impact to the surrounding area as possible. The conservation aspect of the wine industry is important and incorporating solar power into that mix makes a lot of sense. Additionally, making wine requires a lot of electricity. If one can control that cost it allows those savings to be used somewhere else.

Southern Sun Solar have recently completed a solar installation at Stellekaya in Stellenbosch and are in negotiation and development phases with a number of other vineyards in the Western Cape.

Blaauwklippen Vineyards has installed a new solar system that generates 6,800 kWh per year, covering the energy needs of their wine tasting center.  Dawid Grobler, Finance and Admin manager stated “We were looking into investing into solar, mainly as a result of the looming increases in electricity. As it is a substantial capital outlay, we entered into an agreement with the suppliers, Soventix, to erect a trial plant, so that we can monitor the output for at least 12months to weigh up the costs vs benefit received.”

“We are always looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We have started our own waste sorting and recycling, which include a composting unit and will definitely look at a larger solar plant to supply at least our minimum electricity requirements.”

Another Soventix installation includes a 44.65kWp ground mount array at Oldenburg Vineyards.  “Solar fits our sustainable business goals whilst reducing costs” said Ina Basson, Sales and Marketing Manager for the vineyard.  The solar installation will provide power for irrigation as part of their general provision of power to the farm.

“The biggest technical consideration is the ability for us to provide power to the grid, which we can receive credit for when we are not generating,” continued Ina.  “This meant that our installation has been done in a modular form. When we can receive credits we will install more solar with the ultimate goal of self sufficiency in power requirements.”

Is the investment into the solar panels worth it from both a financial and environmental aspect?
 “On an environmental aspect the investment is absolutely worth it. The group making the investment is doing this for not only their business but for the community as a whole. The less you rely on conventional power production the better the environment gets. This environmental aspect of it will translate into the financial aspect over time as well due people developing loyalty on a good product but also on how a business conducts itself.” says Sean of Southern Sun Solar.

He continues that the financial aspect makes even more sense as it has an ROI of less than 8 years due to the cost of installation, depreciation available, and hedging against yearly power increases. This is proven and continues to take less and less time to recoup the initial investment due to some government programs becoming more available and the cost of installation falling. One important aspect to also look at with solar is the 25 year performance warranty on the modules themselves and the fact that there is little to no maintenance to keep them producing.

The Vrede en Lust winery has commissioned MLT Drives (Pty) Ltd of Cape Town to install a 218 KWp solar power plant. The leading edge photo-voltaic (PV) solar plant will generate 374,000 kWh annually, enough to meet the winery’s power needs. Vrede en Lust aims to become a carbon neutral winery in the near future.

The complete installation will cover an area of 1,600m². The 1,000-panel installation will be the largest at a winery in South Africa to date. The Vrede en Lust solar energy installation is also the first project to be approved under the Eskom rebate scheme for small-scale renewable energy.

“We were pleasantly surprised that the Eskom process was painless, with great responsiveness and a very quick turnaround time” noted Dana Buys, owner of Vrede en Lust.

Where can you go to find out more about clean energy technologies and the impact they could have on your wine estate?
Save your winery money on implementing energy efficiency projects by gaining access to specialised and leading vendors of renewable energy power solution providers and producers with a FREE entry registration pass, at the Clean Power Africa 2013 exhibition, co-located with the 13th annual African Utility Week Exhibition on the 14 – 15 May at the CTICC in Cape Town.

Gain industry knowledge from 250 exhibitors such as Jinko Solar, Soventix, S&C Electric, Marelli, Gilkes and Aurecon.Schedule your time at the exhibition to attend the FREE technical workshops situated on the exhibition floor, including topics on:

Solar Rooftop projects for Large Power Users
Claire Lockey, Marketing and Communicaitons, SolarWorld Africa, South Africa
Waste to Energy
Linda Cele, GIBB, South Africa
Containerised mini hydro systems - A simple, secure and cost-effective system for mini-hydro deployment on and off-grid
Nick West, Entura Hydro Tasmania Energy Efficiency for large and very large energy users
Energy Efficiency for large and very large energy users
Chris Haw, Managing Director, Aurora Power Solutions, South Africa and spokesperson for SAPVIA
Sustainable energy solutions for businesses
Wayne Fortuin, IDM Implementation Manager, Eskom, South Africa

Can your business survive off the power grid?
Comment at the bottom and tell us about your current energy efficiency projects and you can stand a chance to win a CONFERENCE PASS valued at R 12 800. The conference sessions will look at solar, wind and hydro as renewable energy sources throughout Africa, and the impact on government and businesses alike.

Make the best decision you will make this year right now and register your free attendance to an event where you will meet knowledgeable people with practical advice on a range of energy efficiency technologies and processes.