by Andrea Geicke

SOLAR POWER

Dairy embraces renewable energy

Solar power sustains communities
Solar powered dairy

The installation of a 20 kilowatt (kW) thin film solar photovoltaic (PV) plant at Camphill Village in the Western Cape, has made its dairy one of the first in South Africa to embrace renewable energy. The dairy, which provides employment for intellectually disabled adults, will now use solar electricity for its production of organic milk, cheese and yoghurt products for retail.  

The plant, which was inaugurated by Councillor Xanthea Limberg, Chairperson of the City of Cape Town’s Economic, Environmental & Spatial Planning Portfolio Committee, will allow Camphill Village – a Public Benefit Organization (PBO) which provides care and employment opportunities for 87 intellectually disabled adults through its social enterprises – to significantly reduce its carbon footprint as well as its dependency on electricity from the grid 

The project was led by the Germany-based Rays of Hope Foundation, and included contributions from a number of industry leaders including BAE, Dehn, First Solar, Hanel Projects, Lahmeyer International, Leschaco, Q3, Schletter, Sieckmann Engineering, SMA Solar Technology, Solardura, Southern Sun Solar and UFE. Rays of Hope was established in 2007 by a group of German airline employees, keen to make a positive impact on communities and social groups that needed assistance in South Africa.

“The growing energy crisis in South Africa and ever-increasing electricity rates have had a profound impact on the operational costs that are involved in the running of a PBO such as Camphill Village,” said Dr. Katrin Emmrich, co-founder and Chairperson of the Rays of Hope Foundation. “This solar PV project was conceived with the objective of contributing to efforts to minimize Camphill’s carbon footprint, while also allowing the organization to save money on electricity costs that can instead be invested in the community.”

“We anticipate that this plant will help us save approximately R1.44 million in electricity costs over the next 20 years which can be reinvested in caring for our people, while also contributing significantly to our positioning as a truly sustainable, ecological leader in the region,” said James Sleigh, Managing Director at Camphill Village. “We are grateful to our benefactors, at the Rays of Hope Foundation and the companies that have contributed to this project, for supporting our efforts to adopt a sustainable energy generation source.”  

First Solar, a global leader in comprehensive solar energy solutions, sponsored the 300 thin film PV panels that power the facility, in addition to making a financial contribution to the project.

“Sunlight is our most abundant energy resource and this project demonstrates just how solar power plants can be scaled to meet very specific energy needs. From dairy farms to mines to utility-scale power plants, solar power has the potential for support sustainable growth and development from the grassroots up,” said Nasim Khan, Vice President of Business Development for First Solar in Africa. “As a company that takes sustainability and its commitment to the community seriously, First Solar is proud to be part of this effort to bring clean, reliable solar electricity to Camphill Village.”   

Dr. Günther Häckl, Chief Representative and Vice President Public Affairs at SMA added:  “Camphill Village is an outstanding example of enabling people to gain independence by employing them in a social enterprise. Helping Camphill Village to establish its power supply in support of its principles of enhancing the lives of people in need of services and support for daily living just seemed a logical step for us. SMA is a proud contributor to this project which demonstrates what a sustainable future should look like.”  

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