Affordable solar energy to propel large and small-scale farmers

A dawn for South African agriculture as solar energy becomes affordable, even for small-scale farmers. Photo: Supplied.

An international partnership promises to make solar energy much more affordable for South African agriculture, even for small-scale farmers. Photo: Supplied

A new offering that eliminates the upfront setup costs means that South African agriculture and its farmers can now look forward to enjoying easy access to dependable and affordable solar energy.

A newly launched sustainable energy company, Jaguar New Energies, has announced it is offering small and large scale farmers clean energy with no upfront cost. The initial capital investment of installing a solar system is to be covered by a clean energy fund that is partly supported by the Dutch government.

The solar plant company was formed in partnership with South African based company New Southern Energy and two Dutch brands, Jaguar The Fresh Company and ForestEffect Fund. Together, they are seeking to enable Mzansi farmers in making an easy and clever transition to sustainable energy.

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According to Deepak John, co-founder of Jaguar New Energies, the solar company is set to propel the South African agriculture sector and significantly reduce the operational cost of farmers, especially for energy.

“It will also help them be more independent from the energy grid. In the event of load shedding, power outages or grid failures, then at least they have a reliable and inexpensive source of energy,” John states.

Deepak John, co-founder of Jaguar New Energies. Photo: New Energies

He tells Food For Mzansi that the offering is unique in that it provides all size farming operations a rare opportunity to get solar at no initial cost. Jaguar New Energies will be financing the solar system for farmer and only sell the energy produced by the solar systems

John states, “Our aim is to always be cheaper than what they (farmers) are currently paying for electricity. For example if they are paying R1.50 per kilowatt hour, then we will always try to be much cheaper than that.”

In a recent article, Paulo Bello of Forest Effect Fund told the Europe based magazine Eurofruit that the no upfront investment model was made possible by their fund.

According to Bello, their model will also lead to “socio-economic benefits, with discounted electricity being made available to farming and rural communities”.

“With the Dutch government participating in our fund the integrity of our model is guaranteed,” he added.

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Jaguar New Energies states that farmers will undergo a screening process beforehand. This will be done to ensure that they have the financial ability to honour the payment agreement.

“If a farmer is very small and does not have a very positive financial balance sheet, we might not be able to offer them the product,” John states.

Kees Rijnhout, CEO of Jaguar TFC. Photo: Jaguar TFC

New Southern Energy has spearheaded leading commercial and industrial projects in Africa and has installed multiple power systems throughout the continent.

John told Eurofruit that they understand the unique challenges of projects in various locations and will provide an end-to-end service with a single point of contact.

“This means farmers do not have to juggle multiple vendors, plans and schedules. NSE (New Southern Energy) manages every aspect of every project, so the farmer has a complete perspective of the process from beginning to end.

“The power and solutions are now – literally – in the farmer’s hands,” John said.

Kees Rijnhout, CEO of Jaguar The Fresh Company commented that South African farmers face a lot of economic challenges. According to him this includes, “the erratic supply of electricity that often leads to ‘dirty electricity’ from diesel generators.”

He adds, “with Jaguar having been involved in South Africa for decades we challenged ourselves to create a sustainable solution to this economic and environmental issue.”

Rijnhout said the Dutch Forest Effect Fund has outstanding experience in sustainable agricultural value chains, whilst New Southern Energies is a key player in the southern African solar energy market.

“Together we have excellent expertise on board to ensure that South African fruit farmers can extract solid value from this unique energy solution from day one.”