Phillip Potgieter pops a bottle of champagne to open the new solar plant at Macridge and Avoridge farms officially. From left to right are Vicky Potgieter (Potgieter Boerdery), Amon Musoliwa (Standard Bank Vehicle & Asset Finance), Cois Pretorius (Cois Elektries), Nico Slyper (ARB), Jan Martin (Macridge Processing Services), Phillip Potgieter (Potgieter Boerdery), Carol Demana (Standard Bank Area Manager) and Frikkie Naudè (Standard Bank Vehicle & Asset Finance).
Date: 09 December 2023 By: Anton van Zyl
One of the Soutpansberg most pristine farms, Potgieter Boerdery, is officially off the grid and has switched to predominantly green energy. Potgieter Boerdery, trading as Avoridge Macridge, formally introduced their new solar plant and energy systems last Friday (1 December).
Potgieter Boerdery is known for packing and marketing avocados at Avoridge and also for their macadamia processing facility at Macridge. At Macridge, macadamia nuts are processed for the export markets and value-added lines are available, such as cold pressed macadamia oil and roasted macadamia nuts.
Phillip Potgieter, director of Potgieter Boerdery, explained that the decision to switch to a greener source of energy was prompted by a variety of factors. The Witvlag line that feeds electricity to the two farms is notorious for its unreliability. Apart from outages during load-shedding, the electricity supply often gets interrupted, mainly because of poor maintenance and outdated infrastructure.
It was important to have a sustainable and affordable form of energy that could not only provide power to Avoridge and Macridge, but also to the engineering plant (MPS), as well as housing, staff living quarters and other farming activities, said Potgieter.
He added that the process to limit the use of energy started some time ago. Several energy-saving mechanisms were introduced, such as using the shells of the cracked macadamia nuts for heating and drying of macadamias. The sophisticated energy management system that was implemented also regulates power usage and eliminates surges.
The next phase entailed installing more solar panels to harvest the sunlight and store this in a massive energy bank. This project was entrusted to a Louis Trichardt-based company, Cois Elektries and it was financed by Standard Bank.
Carel Pretorius, from Cois Elektries, explained that 450 new solar panels were installed to supplement the 400 panels already on rooftops. This means that on a sunny day, more than 500 kWp can be tapped. The power gets fed into three Lithium-ion batteries, each capable of delivering 500 kWh as a backup, should there be long periods of rain with minimal sunshine. A 300 kVA generator was also installed. The power from the generator gets used to recharge the batteries should there not be enough solar power generated by the panels on rainy and misty days.
Pretorius added that the project took roughly two-and-a-half months to complete. Apart from the solar-panel installation, a special building had to be commissioned that can accommodate the batteries, inverters, and other controllers. The temperature in this room also needs to be controlled carefully to ensure that the system operates at an ideal temperature.
Potgieter Boerdery is now connected, and power factor controllers are used to ensure that the load is always stable.
During Friday’s opening function, Pretorius mentioned that the new solar plant at Macridge should pay for itself in less than 10 years, based on the saving in electricity. This, however, is not always a good indication of the effect of such an installation, because power interruptions also cause a drop in productivity and often lead to secondary breakdowns when equipment starts failing.
The latest development also marks a significant milestone for Potgieter Boerdery. Over many years, Macridge and Avoridge have formed the heart of superior quality avocados and macadamia nut products that they produce. The latest development means that these products are now even “greener” than before.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.