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WATCH | Cape wine farm toasts R500k solar installation to avoid load-shedding woes

The award-winning Ken Forrester wine estate is one of many businesses spending thousands on rooftop solar panel installations to avoid the impact of load-shedding. The move could also make them money.

26 July 2022 - 16:19 By TANYA STEENKAMP

It’s a significant financial investment, but the owners of the Ken Forrester wine estate are hoping the R500,000 bill attached to their solar panel installation will pay off. 

The company, which exports globally, has been battling the effects of load-shedding. 

“If we don’t have access to power, be it from Eskom, solar or generator, the result is quite calamitous. We have 200 barrels, maybe more, sitting in a cooling facility. Those need to run, especially in summer. In winter we can get away with it slightly,” says Louw Strydom, commercial manager for Ken Forrester. 

The winter months are easier to manage, but with temperatures in the summer months ranging from 30 to 40°C, the wine could easily spoil. 

“It’s going to impact the wine and spoil the quality of the wine and impact the entire harvest waiting in store and ageing in barrels. That’s one element of it and probably the most important element.”

The company installed 133 solar panels which cost close to R500,000.

“If used efficiently, we can look at a farm of our size probably reliant on an Eskom bill of about R30,000 to R35,000, more or less, and you could have this solar panels system start knocking off about R10,000 in terms of a savings there, which would pay itself off in a three or four-year period before we start seeing a real return on investment,” Louw said. 

The company is one of many that have moved towards solar. Installer Seraj Chilwan of Aces Africa says while the majority of the systems are for self-consumption, some could start supplying power to the grid. The City of Cape Town pays producers 75c per unit plus a 25c incentive.

“I think moving towards net generation is a game changer. It’s showing the city is being proactive in combating load-shedding and the need for energy to be supplied to the grid. I think though, they should seriously consider a one-to-one tariff,” said Chilwan.

Most of Chilwan’s clients install systems based on the business consumption needs and not with the goal to produce excess to sell to the city. This is partly due to that until mid-2021, embedded generation was not allowed to produce more than 1MW of electricity without acquiring a licence through the National Energy Regulator.

“Will these businesses lay out, say, R10m [for a bigger system]? If it’s one-to-one and they can make revenue from it because they’ve got the roof space, it makes business sense,” said Chilwan.

This week Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced plans from the municipality to procure more power from large-scale businesses. 

“In the past you were able to run up a credit. And you could run up that credit until your bill was at zero and then you couldn’t go any further than that. Now — whether you prefer eWallet, Apple Pay, EFT, it doesn’t matter — we can send you money for the power you sell the city,” said Hill-Lewis.

The municipality also said the registration system had been improved. 

“This is one of the areas where we’ve had the most complaints come though. That it’s onerous, it’s time-consuming,” said Kadri Nassiep, executive director of energy for the city of Cape Town.

“The online process is one of the key things we’re trying to enable right now to make it a lot easier for you.”

The city has 2,487 approved and commissioned grid installations of which the 453 commercial customers produce the most power.

“In respect of actual capacity there’s about 80MVA that’s already been put onto the grid,” said Nassiep.

On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Eskom would also begin buying from companies which produce excess power. 

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