Marlenique Estate, a fruit farm and wedding venue just outside of Franschhoek, has just unveiled Africa’s first state-of-the-art floating solar PV system.
New South Energy was the company in charge of the installation, which was built on the farm’s dam to generate clean energy while minimising the dam’s evaporation rate and saving valuable agricultural land space.
This system marks the first commercially-operated floating solar system on the African continent as well as the largest, at 60kWp.
The floats for the solar panels are made of high-density polyethylene, which is recyclable and highly resistant to UV exposure and corrosion, giving the units more than a 20-year lifespan and preventing the contamination of the water.
The first phase of the project also includes the installation of a land-based solar PV system on the farm, allowing the farm to run 90% of its cold storage, irrigation and wedding venue facilities off the grid.
In the second phase, battery packs will be added to the current set up, removing the estate from the main power grid completely.
Economic Opportunities Minister Beverley Schäfer says, “This project has looked at some of the key sustainability issues we are facing in agriculture and the economy today – water and energy – and has attempted to find solutions. The system reduces the farm’s reliance on the electricity grid, and provides clean, affordable energy supply, while at the same time also reducing evaporation and saving water. The knock-on effect is that the business will save money in the long run, and create a business that is not only environmentally sustainable, but financially sustainable as well.”
Financial Director Carl van der Merwe, of the van de Merwe family who owns and runs the estate, says the installation would reduce the estate’s carbon footprint by half. The family’s decision to invest in solar followed the rising electricity prices and uncertainty around Eskom.
“Marlenique farm is the highest energy-user in our portfolio. We are aiming to be 100% green through solar energy solutions across our entire portfolio in the near future,” says van der Merwe.
Minister Schäfer says, “As the Western Cape Government, we have been urging businesses to take up solar PV as an alternative energy source. We’ve seen uptake grow from just 18MW in 2015 to 112 MW today, which reduces demand on the grid and helps to diversify our energy mix. We are pleased to see businesses like Marlenique responding to our call to invest in resilience in such an innovative way.”
CEO of New South Energy David Masureik has commended Boplaas for being innovators in the agricultural sector, saying, “I would also like to thank the government for their interest in solutions that will inevitably encourage the sector to thrive. Without the support and encouragement from national and local government for industry to become more sustainable and independent in terms of power solutions, our business would not exist. We are honoured to take part in positive change happening across the public and private sector.”
Capetonians have yet another reason to hold their heads high as our innovation on sustainable energy continues to soar with our ever-increasing consideration for the environment.