by DION HENRICK
CAPE TOWN – THE installation of a solar plant by an innovative farmer could herald the end of electricity shortages in South Africa’s fruit bowl, as the Ceres Valley is popularly known.
Ian Versfeld, the local farmer, is the brains behind the so-called solar orchard after installing the plant at his farm.
The facility at his Vadersgawe farm is a much bigger capacity than what the farmer needs, hence he can feed the excess power back into the local grid.
Installation of the system that includes 630 (360W each) solar panels, producing up to 226,8 kWp DC power, was completed in 2020.
The system can produce up to 376 882 kWh per year.
The ground mount system that was built took up minimal space as underutilized ground not suitable for fruit development was used to build the plant.
Therefore, essentially low potential ground was converted into a ‘solar-orchard’ which the farm harvests daily throughout the year.
This has increased the available electricity in the area.
The entire community now has more power to draw from and is less vulnerable to load-shedding.
Additionally, the staff on the farm are supplied with free electricity.
“Using the solar plant to produce our electricity, I’m experiencing a much more stable internal network. The Solar Edge technology makes monitoring and fault finding easy,” Versfeld said.
His farm was converted from a 180ha wheat only farm to a 60ha fruit farming unit supplying supermarkets in Europe and the United King.
Later, a large dam was constructed so that the fruit farm division could expand up to 90ha.
Versfeld is well known and well-loved in the area.
Realising that the electricity shortages, he decided to step in and install a solar plant on his property.
Solar power works by capturing the sun’s energy using a system of photovoltaic (PV) panels which convert it to electricity.
David Masureik from New Southern Energy, the company that designed and installed the solar farm, said the project was an excellent example of a grid tied system that would benefit a whole area.
“Mr Versfeld was wise to choose the best technology available to maximize the production of the system throughout its lifetime” Masureik added.
– CAJ News