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Clean energy company implements renewable energy system for major agri business

2nd April 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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South African clean energy infrastructure development and operation company Blue Energy Africa has highlighted its implementation of hybrid solar and battery energy systems for a major Western Cape agricultural company. The client was Robertson-based Smuts Brothers Agri (Smuts), which is a division of Lucerne Agri.

The project was intended to significantly reduce the agri-business’ dependence on unreliable Eskom grid electricity, reduce energy costs, and cut its carbon emissions. The project was also the first step in Smuts’ plan to move to renewable sources for 100% of its energy.

“By understanding our clients’ needs and sustainability goals, we can tailor funding and technical solutions to address their need for energy security and carbon mitigation,” pointed out Blue Energy CEO Marcel Steinberg. “With over 6.2-million kilowatt-hours saved and more than 16 000 t of CO2 savings achieved over the project life cycle, this is a great first step towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for all.”

Solar battery installations were established on three of the client’s farms. The primary installation comprised an integrated system with 217 kW of ground-based solar panels and battery storage with a capacity of about 300 kWh. This will power Smuts’ irrigation system. The other two systems are each composed of 70 kW of solar arrays, integrated with 70 kWh of backup batteries. The three systems together will produce more than 370 MWh of electricity, and cut carbon emissions by more than 800 t/y.

In parallel to the renewable energy project, and a “key” (as Blue Energy phrased it) complementary element to it, Smuts also upgraded its irrigation system. The new system is energy efficient, which reduces the amount of time the pumps need to operate and the pumping load. This involved the installation of optimised filter banks, variable speed drives and larger and energy-efficient pumps.

Not only is the new energy system cheaper, more reliable and cleaner than grid power, the fact that it uses renewable energy allows Smuts to now claim carbon offsets.

Cape Town Stock Exchange-listed Gaia Fund Managers Renewables Real Estate Investment Trust (Gaia) funded the project.

“We believe sustainable agriculture is essential for addressing the interconnected challenges of climate change, food security and environmental degradation,” explained Gaia MD Renier de Wit. “Our strategy for sustainable agri-food systems reflects our unwavering commitment to driving positive change and creating a more resilient and equitable food system for the African continent for future generations. By embracing renewable energy, energy efficiency and water efficiency solutions, we can build a more sustainable future for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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