7 August 2013 – Ceres Fruit Growers is installing South Africa’s largest agricultural rooftop photovoltaic system to date, at 1.015 MWp. SolarWorld Africa, together with EPC partner African Technical Innovations has commenced supply and installation of this facility.
The 4,060 SW250 SolarWorld polycrystalline panels are being installed on four north-facing roofs of Ceres Fruit Growers’ cold-rooms. The system will supply Ceres Fruit Growers’ electrical grid with power to be largely consumed by the refrigeration compressor rooms during peak season.
Ceres Fruit Growers handles more than 110,000 tonnes of apples and pears annually, with cooling, packing and marketing carried out according to client requirements and specifications. The premises span an area of over 54 hectares and consist of more than 100 cold stores.
“The major reason influencing our decision to install a renewable energy solution of this size was to fix a part of our electricity costs when faced with expected electricity tariff increases in the future. We purchase our electricity from the local municipality which is supplied by Eskom. On 28 February 2013, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) announced that Eskom’s electricity tariffs will increase by 8% per annum. However the individual tariff increases by Eskom and the municipality suggest an average increase of at least 11% for our business. Taking into account the fact that our operations consume approximately 29,700 MWh of electricity annually, this will result in considerable savings for us,” Francois Malan, Ceres Fruit Growers’ managing director, says.
This solar system will generate approximately 6% (1,690 MWh) of Ceres Fruit Growers’ annual electricity consumption, reducing its carbon footprint by approximately 1,622 tonnes a year over the next 25 years and more. In addition, Ceres Fruit Growers’ sustainability policy places great emphasis on exploring new technologies that will reduce energy usage with the goal of reducing their energy consumption by 10% over the next three years.
“This 1.0 MWp photovoltaic system is the largest of its kind in the southern African agricultural sector and marks an industry milestone. Agri-business is starting to see the long-term advantages of investment in renewables through the environmental and economic benefits. With electricity tariffs increasing annually, it makes economic sense for businesses such as Ceres Fruit Growers to explore solar power in order to fix their electricity costs for the next 25 years and longer,” Gregor Küpper, SolarWorld Africa’s managing director, says.