Historical wine estate, Vrede en Lust, became one of the first farms in South Africa to invest in solar power to shift away from Eskom and rising electricity prices, with plans now in place to upgrade its infrastructure over time.
The estate – founded in 1688 and situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands, equidistant from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl – made an investment in 1,000 solar panels, three big inverters, as well as cables and frames 10 years ago.
The project turned cash flow positive after four years, it said.
“The plan is now to replace the panels and upgrade the inverters in another 10 years, but the significant investment in cables and frames will serve the next generation of technology to come,” it said.
Estate owner, Dana Buys, said that in early 2012, electricity became Vrede en Lust’s second-largest expense.
“The cost of electricity was growing far faster than inflation and it was also clear that climate change was becoming a critical problem. We all had to change our ways. We did the research and by investing in a significant solar power installation, we could tackle both issues at the same time; reduce our carbon footprint and get control over our escalating energy costs,” he said.
He said the Vrede en Lust energy needs were perfectly aligned with solar power, as both the generating of electricity and the operations on the farm at their peak in the summer.
The installation was financed over 10 years, and in that time, the estate prevented tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. The installation generates over 300,000 kWh of electricity annually, which supplies various departments on the farm with power.
The large row of solar panels stretches 350 meters in length and has a surface area of 1500 square meters. Most of the solar panels can be found in the vineyards below the Simonsberg in Simondium, the rest on the cellar roof.
According to Buys, several other farms in the region have followed suit and also pursued solar builds.
South Africa is riding a swelling wave of renewable energy projects, including solar and wind. Eskom on Monday (31 October) launched its plans to convert one of its oldest power stations into a massive wind and solar project.
Meanwhile, brew maker Heineken launched its own massive 14,000-panel solar installation in the past week.
Solar is also becoming a vital component within the retail sector, with South Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite, expanding its own solar installations, while new flagship stores for groups like Food Lovers are also backed by the technology.