By Reon Janse van Rensburg
If you are one of the many South Africans who work at your desk in the guest room or even the dining room or kitchen table during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, it would be wise to pay attention to Eskom’s latest announcement in which the state institution warns that a weekly power shortage could be expected for the next three months.
Over the past few years, the almost unremitting load shedding has left South Africans frustrated and at their wits’ end, and it has also discouraged foreign investors from investing in the South African economy.
Although it has dealt South African businesses a clear and heavy blow, it also ensured that innovative South African entrepreneurs and experts came up with brilliant plans – plans that not only ensure the lights stay on at various businesses, but plans that even benefit municipalities.
A farmer came up with a plan
Ian Versfeld, a farmer who grows fruit on the farm Vadersgawe, or El Cuesta Farming in the Ceres Valley, realised that the electricity problem that affects the country and also his community will not solve itself. Therefore, he decided to step in by installing a solar power plant on his property.
After calculating the amount of power the Vadersgawe farm will need, he decided to take a major step and install a system that would provide much more than the required amount of power. Versfeld wanted to generate much more electricity than he needed for his farming activities so that he could help his community to become independent from Eskom power.
Versfeld’s plan was that with the cooperation of the local Witzenberg Municipality, the excess electricity not used by his farm and farming activities would be fed back into the grid for use elsewhere where it is needed.
This project, which was completed in May 2020, has increased the available electricity in the area, and now the whole community has more electricity available to them, which also makes them less vulnerable to load-shedding. In addition, the staff working on the farm are provided with free electricity, according to South Africa Today.
Solar power plant on the Vadersgawe fruit farm
The system consists of 630 solar panels (360W each) producing up to 226,8 kWp DC power. The system can produce up to 376 882 kWh per year. According to David Masureik, CEO of New Southern Energy, the company that designed and installed the system, the project is an example of a grid system that can benefit a whole area.
According to Versfeld, the solar power plant ensures a much more stable internal network, and the Solar Edge technology makes monitoring and fault finding very easy.
Versfeld also mentioned that the sunny climate and open spaces on his farm made him realise that solar power was an obvious solution. He is considering installing even more solar panels in an open field on his farm.
According to Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha, the risk for load-shedding will remain high for the most part of 2021.
He also mentioned that there should be a reduced risk after September 2021, but it is expected that load-shedding will remain a major risk until then.
According to Mantshantsha, it is regrettable that Eskom finds itself in this situation, but added that Eskom management and engineering teams are working hard to address the incessant problems.
Fruit farmer lights up Ceres Valley – https://southafricatoday.net/environment/fruit-farmer-lights-up-ceres-valley/
Ceres farmer commissions solar plant that benefits community – https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/ceres-farmer-commissions-solar-plant-that-benefits-community-2021-01-14/rep_id:4136
Eskom to stop 4-hour load-shedding in Joburg – https://mybroadband.co.za/news/energy/383146-eskom-to-stop-4-hour-load-shedding-in-joburg.html