Solar to the Rescue – Poultry Bulletin Advertorial

Apr 10, 2023

An innovative hybrid energy system offers the solution to poultry farmers

In 2019 when a group of forward-thinking chicken farmers in Zeerust, North West, started investigating options to convert their farms to solar energy, they had no idea that daily load shedding would be a reality just a few years later.

At the time options for funding such an expensive exercise was limited, especially for individuals, and things looked bleak until their research lead them to power purchase agreements (PPA) as a possible solution. At its most basic, a PPA is a contract between a solar-power provider and a customer, in which the provider agrees to develop, finance, build, operate and maintain a solar system on the customer’s property. The customer, in turn, agrees to purchase the energy generated at a set price for a fixed period of time.

Creating the example that worked

The son of one of the Zeerust farmers, Jean Oosthuizen and his now business partner, Steven van Dijk, connected with CVE, an independent power producer that provides commercial and industrial companies and especially farmers with energy solutions.

“There was great skepticism in the farming community, so we knew we had to show via an example that solar worked,” says Oosthuizen.

The partners had by now established their own company, Zenergy Green, and they joined forces with CVE and local company WHP Energy, to tackle a project that would prove what they were convinced solar could do for farmers. They signed up three of the original chicken farmers and a piggery in Zeerust to form a collective. These four farms used enough energy to reach the 500kW requirement to justify the PPA, so the terms and unit price were set, and the design and installation started on the four sites in mid-2022.

A hybrid model for chicken farmers

In the year since, the group grew from four to 16 farms, plus three businesses in town, two of which are already turned on. And as the interest grew and the project unfolded with new challenges to be resolved at each turn, Zenergy Green and its partners developed a solar-energy model specifically for chicken farmers and industries to reduce dependence on generators during load shedding.

They nicknamed this system “The Sunbird”. A hybrid system that was developed for a four-hour stage 6 load shedding cycle, “The Sunbird” consists of an on-site solar system with four-hour battery storage that is still grid tied to Eskom. Being tied to the grid not only serves as a primary back up, but also for night-time usage and days with inclement weather. The battery system can be charged on a time-of use tariff and a generator setup is incorporated, serving as a second backup. During the day, solar provides power, charges the battery, and keeps it charged, so when load shedding occurs, the primary source of power is the battery, not the generator.

If for whatever reason there are only two hours of battery backup – say, due to night-time load shedding – the generator charges the batteries to a specific point, which is individually tailored per farm.

Affordable solution for all agri regions

The hybrid model includes battery storage which is worked into the PPA via a lease agreement. It is available as a capex solution from WHP Energy if a farmer has the funds available, but if investment capital is not an option, CVE provides the same option on an individually tailored PPA contract for maximum affordability. Says Oosthuizen, “Our dream is to create micro grids all over SA, just as we did in Zeerust, bringing this collective solution to all agricultural regions. We want to invite farmers and communities to reach out to us, to speak to the farmers in our Zeerust pilot project and come see what we’ve accomplished here.

“CVE’s solar PPA and battery options really are a win-win solution for farmers who want to reduce their energy costs and move towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.”