UPINGTON, SOUTH AFRICA, Feb 4 — As South Africa learns to cope with increasingly frequent load-shedding by national power utility Eskom, farmers in the Lower Orange River region of Northern Cape Province are opting for green energy.
Energy consultants in the area say they have been inundated with queries and orders every time load-shedding is implemented by Eskom, whose old, deteriorating infrastructure buckles under the strain.
The Orange River region is known for its scorching heat but that has become a positive for most farmers around the area. Its blazing hot days are perfect for solar energy generation.
With load shedding an ever-present threat, livestock farmer Ellewee Van Zyl opted to start using green energy in his electricity-intensive industry. Since his solar power system was installed, there has been two rounds of load-shedding but Van Zyl says he was hardly aware of it.
“I can work the whole day because the pumps can operate the whole day. A pump is not supposed to stop pumping. A lot of farmers, especially those along the river, have to pump water. With green electricity one can do that the whole day, so green energy is really helping.”
Farmers around the area use more electricity during summer and less during winter but while the green farmers produce extra electricity when the national grid is under extreme pressure, they cannot pump it into the national grid.
“At this stage, there are a few laws that need to be in place so we can feed power into the grid, so that we can prevent the blackouts,” says Hendrik Greyling of Solar Trend, a provider of solar electricity systems.
The input costs to install green energy is high, but it saves thousands of rands in the long run. Apart from several farms and businesses opting for green energy, several government and private renewable energy projects in the Northern Cape are in various stages of completion.
Once up and running they will contribute a combined 650 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.