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SA agribusinesses implementing solar projects

11 October 2013 – Well known agricultural brands in South Africa such as Rooibos, Timberlea Farming Trust (blueJay Fruit export) and Bosman Family Vineyards have completed milestone photovoltaic (PV) projects using modules imported from Germany and coordinated by SolarWorld. With calculable yields, 25 year performance guarantees, fixed electricity costs and significant annual electricity savings, the technology enables this sector of the South African economy to reduce its carbon footprint and grid connected annual electricity consumption, in some cases by almost half.

Rooibos Ltd., the global market leader in rooibos tea production, opted for the installation of a 511 kWp SolarWorld solar installation on the roofs of its storage facilities in the Cederberg region. With a global market share of over 70%, Rooibos also supplies major South African brands such as Twinings and Freshpak Rooibos.

“Rooibos Ltd. will see a payback on invested capital in the next seven to eight years,” Gregor Küpper, SolarWorld Africa managing director says. The installation, expected to generate 875,000 kWh a year, will subsidise Rooibos Ltd.’s total electricity usage by 43%.

“The implementation of this project will allow Rooibos Ltd. to provide its suppliers with a product that has a lowered carbon footprint. This is important as exporters in the agri-food sector are being required to measure and take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains in the European Union and the United States of America,” Kobus Engelbrecht, managing director of African Technical Innovations, says.

Ceres Koelkamers, a fresh produce cooling facility which is a pioneer in the agricultural sector, saw the installation of a 508 kWp SolarWorld system completed in record speed between 19th of November 2012 and 17th of January 2013. The facility consumes some 5,000 MWh a year and the installation will save the facility about 17% of its annual electricity bill. Ceres Koelkamers made this landmark decision to opt for solar power because sunshine hours in the region are high. The greatest cooling is required at the time of the highest regional irradiation, namely in summer when the system performs at its peak and generates the greatest amount of electricity.

SolarWorld Africa’s’ partner African Technical Innovations, has commenced installation of the largest South African agricultural rooftop solar system (1.015 MWp) for Ceres Fruit Growers. The 4,060 SW250 SolarWorld polycrystalline panels are being installed on the north-facing roofs of Ceres Fruit Growers’s (CFG) atmospherically-controlled complexes. The SolarWorld system will supply the electrical grid; however, most of the power will be consumed by one of the refrigeration compressor rooms at CFG during the peak season. The 54 hectare complex handles more than 110,000 tonnes of apples and pears annually and operates more than 100 cold stores.

“The major reason influencing our decision to install a solution of this size, was to fix our electricity costs during the electricity tariff increases of at least 11% which are about to commence. Considering that we consume approximately 29.7 million kWh of electricity annually, this will result in considerable savings,” managing director of Ceres Fruit Growers, Francois Malan, says.

In another project, Timberlea Farming Trust, a group most well-known internationally for its blueJay branded fruit, recently installed 127 kWp. The group produces stone, pome and citrus fruits for Woolworths, Marks & Spencer’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The poly crystalline solar panels will subsidise 30% of the farm’s total electrical output.

The Bosman Family, with a wine legacy spanning eight generations, also undertook a project which installed 88 kWp SolarWorld modules on the roof of a wine cellar and the administrative offices. Within the wine farming industry the use of solar technology makes viable business and environmental sense as cooling takes place generally when the sun shines. The installation is expected to generate 147,871 kWh a year.

In addition, SolarWorld supplied the largest rooftop installation in Africa up to that point, for the Dube TradePort’s agrizone near Port Elizabeth. The 630 kWp installed over the roofs of two agrizone pack houses power the cold storage facilities, the packing lines, packing equipment, offices and storage facilities.