It is exciting to see the increasing use of renewable energy in the South Africa fruit sector. With the recent year-on-year increases in the cost of electricity, and further above-inflation increases expected, combined with the massive reduction in the cost of renewable energy solutions, we have now reached the crossover point where renewable energy solutions are making financial sense.
This is evident in the large number of industry players in the fruit sector that are investing in photo-voltaic (PV) solutions. PV panels convert sunlight directly into electricity for consumption, and can be installed on farm, packhouse and cold storage facilities. As an indication of the increased use, the below projects are about to be installed, or have already been installed:
- 500 kWp at a Ceres cold storage facility;
- 1,000 kWp at a Ceres packhouse facility;
- 1,000 kWp at a Grabouw packhouse facility; and
- 200 kWp at a Paarl packhouse facility.
- Several smaller installations at winery level.
In addition to these, there are several other projects in the final stages of approval. From the above, it is clear that PV solutions are a financially viable alternative for large packhouses and cold storage facilities, especially in the Topfruit industry.
There are three main drivers of the feasibility of a PV project in the agricultural space :
- Agricultural supply-chains consume large amounts of electricity (for the pumping of water and to maintain the cold-chain);
- The average utility price of electricity in these entities is relatively high; and
- The availability of development funding, government grants and Eskom rebates.
If you have a significant electricity use profile, and are on an average or above-average electricity tariff, it would be worth your while to investigate the possibility of renewable energy solutions, particularly PV.
To complete a basic feasibility study one needs a utility bill, 12 months of electricity consumption data and a Google earth image of the facility. Blue North partners with Emergent Energy, who specialise in feasibility studies and the delivery of renewable energy solutions. Basic feasibility studies are undertaken at no cost and no obligation.
While the economic gains associated with renewable energy solutions have been highlighted, renewable energy solutions can also make a significant contribution to the sustainability of a production unit through carbon footprint reductions, and thus reduced environmental impacts.