Electricity are significant determinants of agriculture productivity.
We are consumers of Eskom electricity that are distributed by the local municipality. Due to load shedding and load capping, deficiencies in infrastructure and complete under invested infrastructure, Michael started to look for alternative solutions. Load shedding has hit the agricultural sector by surprise. Our business operates in time windows in which irrigating, harvesting and packing must take place. Unforeseen load shedding in any of these stages lead to loss of quality or yields and therefore financial loss.
Crops like maize and wheat, require intensive irrigating during the summer, due to intense South African climate. With little communication and scheduling about when the load shedding would take place, the planning for the unforeseen circumstance became a daily battle to plan. Our potato packing plant where this fresh produce is washed, sorted and pack and weighed, it not had only financial implications but nearly caused job losses as it was uneconomical to remove potatoes from soil and unable to pack them. For time being a large back up diesel generator was installed that could provide this plant in the event of load shedding.
After eliminating solar energy, due to weather dependency, huge cost to store the solar electricity, limited space for the solar plant. With extensive research and surveys, the hydro electricity option was the most providable option.
In 2010, the project was eventually in the process. After careful consideration, the Cross-Flow turbine was opted. It’s well suited for in run of river location, tailor-made according to the site requirements, ideal for the power range to be generated, they are tolerant of debris from the river water, adapts for varying flow from the river, and it’s extremely reliable under most severe conditions. The turbine was built by a German company, Ossberger ®. It took 8 months from agreement to completion of the turbine. Local contractors modified original concrete infrastructure for the turbine.
The turbine was commissioned in October 2011. It has a 15.3 metre nett head, 2500 litres per second flow and has a turbine output of 315 kilowatt.
We have built kilometres internal electrical network to distribute our electricity to required sections on the farm.
With our growing demands, we investigated methods to use the turbine to its optimal level, as the turbine only generates energy to cater for demand. So, we were technically wasting surplus energy since we could not safely store or utilise the surplus energy. In May 2015, we started with the large reservoir, which would use surplus or unused energy to pump water into the dam. The irrigation pipelines were re designed so that the stored water from the dam are gravity fed or free flowed to the lands. This project was completed in 29 May 2016.This significantly reduced our electrical usage for irrigation and thus permitting us to expand our development.
We are in the process of erecting a second Ossberger ® Cross Flow turbine. This turbine will develop another 450 kilowatts into our own private grid. This would officially mean that we are completely off-grid and would only be using Eskom electricity as a standby electricity option.