A Western Cape winery, Cederberg Wines, has partnered with Eskom and New Southern Energy to cement its commitment toward sustainability with a 257.76 kWp solar power plant.
Situated in the Cederberg Nature Conservancy, the award-winning winery harvests 900 tonnes of grapes each year.
The solar power plant, which has been operating for six months, has cut the farm’s carbon footprint, said Cederberg Wines winemaker David Niewoudt.
The move to solar, he says, is the farm’s most measurable initiative to reduce its carbon footprint to date. It is veered toward preserving the area’s natural beauty and biodiversity.
“I want people who drink my wine to think of the Cederberg mountains as unique and untouched. The solar plant is a step in our journey to reducing our impact on the beautiful environment in which we cultivate” he says.
Made up of 716 photo-voltaic solar panels, eight string inverters and 358 optimisers, the solar system is grid-tied.
In other words, it is connected to the national electricity grid. Additionally, Cederberg Wines has also reduced the electricity used in the cellar and farm practices by 75%.
Solar energy works by harnessing the sun’s radiation and converting it into electricity.
One of the many benefits of a grid-tied system, Niewoudt adds, is “when the solar system reaches a certain capacity, it can feed excess energy back into the grid.”
The power plant has been operational for six months and has since cut the farm’s carbon footprint in half.
“A world class wine deserves a world class solar system, and this is just the starting point for us,” says Nieuwoudt.
Wine farming is more energy-intensive that it may appear at face value, explains David Masureik, chief executive of New Southern Energy.
After grapes are harvested, its temperature must be reduced by between 15 and 16 degrees before they can be processed.
“To lessen this, previously one needed to change the harvesting times.
“This far-sighted approach enabled us to build a sophisticated system that will stand Cederberg in good stead for the next 20 to 25 years. All data from the solar plant is logged and saved in cloud-based storage to ensure that it operates as effectively as possible,” Masureik says.
“With the solar plant on the farm producing additional energy, the harvesting window can be extended. Naturally, wine cellars must also be temperature controlled throughout the year.”
Cederberg was one of the first wine farms in Mzansi to be awarded champion status by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).
This is in recognition for its commitment to regenerative farming practices, including conserving natural systems and biodiversity on the land and optimal water and energy efficiency.
It is also the farm with the most unspoilt land of all WWF Champion-accredited wine farms. Of the 5 500-hectare property, only 85 hectares is under vine.