Electrical Power & Protection

Citrus farming with sustainability in mind

Technews Industry Guide: Sustainable Manufacturing 2021 Electrical Power & Protection

One of South Africa’s largest citrus farms, Joubert & Seuns, is celebrating its second solar-versary. The farm’s 265 kW roof-mounted solar plant, made up of 806 x 330 W Canadian solar photovoltaic panels, was commissioned in June 2019 and has been harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it to electricity to power the farm ever since.

Joubert & Seuns is a well-established farming operation based in Schoemanskloof, Mpumalanga. Over the years, the brothers Kobus and Francois Joubert converted their father’s vegetable and maize farm into a large-scale citrus production and packing business. Now focusing on citrus, as well as macadamia nuts, they currently export more than 9000 tons of produce to the northern hemisphere each year, with approximately 2000 tons going to the local market. 685 hectares of the 1000 hectares under irrigation on the property are dedicated to various citrus orchards, with the rest allocated to macadamia trees.

Complementary to the farming business, Joubert & Seuns operates a much-loved farm stall on the arterial road connecting Mpumalanga and Gauteng, renowned for its freshly squeezed orange juice and local produce. This popular stop for tourists and business travellers in the area is on the same property as the packing warehouse.

The solar plant, built by New Southern Energy, was constructed accordingly, and made up of two sections. 768 panels were mounted on a large flat section on the packhouse roof, with an additional 38 panels on the farmstall roof for visibility from the road, which also contribute to the overall renewable energy share. This way, the commitment to renewable energy is clear for all to see.

Return on investment

Since the installation of the solar plant, the farm’s electricity bill has decreased between 33% and 38% per month, depending on the property’s energy usage. Initial calculations estimated that the solar plant would amortise itself within 6-7 years. However, due to increased electricity costs and the high efficiency of the solar system, it will now amortise within an estimated 4,5 years.

While the solar plant has significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the farm, Joubert & Seuns is concurrently busy with other interventions, such as the ‘Farming for the Future’ certification, to ensure that its farming practices are as sustainable and beneficial to the environment as possible.

This is a grid-tied system, meaning that it is connected to the national electricity grid. “The long-term goal is ultimately to export the surplus electricity produced by the solar plant in off-peak months, so that others can also benefit from our system once we are able to finalise an export agreement with the regulator,” explained farm general manager, Lionel Eva. “In the meanwhile, the solar system has not only been a valuable contributor to our operation, but also a great conversation starter, with regular questions being asked about it by intrigued visitors to the farm stall.”

“The system’s performance is monitored and controlled through a master controller, which can also communicate with the system’s inverters,” concluded David Masureik, CEO, New Southern Energy. “All of the data is logged and saved in cloud-based storage. Furthermore, the performance can be monitored in real-time via a smartphone app, meaning that faults can be identified and rectified quickly.”

For more information contact New Southern Energy, +27 11 805 0582, info@newsouthernenergy.com, www.newsouthernenergy.com

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