Introduction

It is vital for any enterprise, let alone agricultural ones, to have a steady, reliable and cost-effective source of energy. The power constraints in South Africa mean that surely we should be looking at all our options now!

Renewable energy resources have a security of supply, being continually replenished. Start-up costs are increasingly affordable, and as tariffs increase the lower the break-even point (the time the system takes to pay for itself) becomes. After this, energy is sourced from the sun, wind, water or other natural/organic matter, and done so without pollution (why we call renewable energy technologies “clean technologies”).

The renewable energy sector is four times more employment-intensive than SA coal and nuclear (SAWEA, 2019). For South Africa, renewable energy could mean job creation, sustainable development, and a reduced burden on Eskom. It is also a sane, logical response to global warming.

See also the “Energy” and “Pumps & Generators” pages.

Batteries and inverters

Role players

  • All Solar Renewable Energy Solutions
  • Battery Centre
  • Bundu Power
  • Current Automation
  • Earth Power Technologies
  • ECOFLOW
  • Eveready
  • First National Battery
  • Genpower
  • JLiNX
  • Kwikelec
  • Maiden Electronics
  • New Way Renewables
  • Power Africa
  • Sabat Batteries
  • Solar Panel Energy
  • Sub-Sahara Power Distributors
  • The Sun Pays
  • Willard Batteries
  • Winglette

Further reference:

Biogas

Visit https://sabia.org.za.

What is biogas ?

A biogas digester (also known as a biogas plant), comprises a large tank in which biogas is produced through the decomposition/breakdown of organic matter (Such as food waste and plant matter) through a process called anaerobic digestion. It’s called a digester because organic material is eaten and digested by bacteria to produce biogas.

Biogas is a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane, that resembles liquid petroleum gas. Like natural gas, biogas is used as a fuel to produce electricity, to power farm equipment, for lighting applications, in gas cookers for cooking, and even as fuel for vehicles. Biogas is widely used across the world.

How does a biogas digester work?

A typical biogas digester has a container that holds organic matter and water, called slurry. A digester also has second container that holds the gas that has been produced after the organic matter is broken down. A series of pipes connect the slurry into the digester and from there connect to the container that will hold the gas output. There is also a transport system to take the biogas to where it will be used. The digester also has a mechanism for ejecting the residue.

Source: AGAMA BiogasPro

 

Role players

  • AGAMA BiogasPro
  • ARC for Agricultural Engineering
  • Biogas Consulting SA
  • Botala Energy Solutions
  • Cape Advanced Engineering (CAE)
  • Fountain Green Energy
  • HomeBiogas
  • Interwaste Environmental Solutions
  • Solien
  • South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers
  • Southern African Biogas Industry Association (SABIA)
  • Trade Plus Aid (TPA)
  • WOMOBA Innovative Sustainability

Further reference

Contact the ARC-Agricultural Engineering at 012 842 4017 or stoltze [at] arc.agric.za for the following publications:

  • Biogas design and operation manual (also available in Afrikaans),
  • Biogas from cattle manure (also available in Afrikaans),
  • Biogas purification (also available in Afrikaans),
  • Biogas equipment (also available in Afrikaans),

 

Some articles:

Biomass

Biomass is a term generally referring to any plant or animal matter. Examples of biomass as a direct fuel source include wood, animal manure, sugar cane residue and agricultural wastes, particularly in rural areas.

Energy can also be produced by converting biomass to a gas. Plant oils are also produced from biomass. These oils can be extracted from sunflowers, soybeans, groundnuts, vegetables and other plants, and turned into fuel.

Biogas is dealt with under the previous heading.

Role players

  • Africa Biomass Company
  • Combustion Technology
  • Marketplace Energy
  • Momentous Energy
  • Scanwood Solutions
  • South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers

Further reference

  • Contact the ARC-Agricultural Engineering at 012 842 4017 or stoltze [at] arc.agric.za for the following publication: Low-cost woodgas producer (also available in Afrikaans)
  • Find the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) “Bioenergy” option  at www.irena.org/bioenergy.

 

Some articles:

 

Geothermal energy

This is energy contained in the heated rock and fluid that rises from the extremely hot core of the Earth and filters into cracks and pores in the Earth’s crust. It can exist as hot water, steam or hot dry rocks. In order to access it, wells are drilled into the Earth’s surface. South Africa does not have many geothermal resources, except in the area around Aliwal North and in the Cape Fold mountains.

Further reference

Hydro energy

Energy in water, in the form of motive energy or temperature differences, can be harnessed and used. Since water is about a thousand times heavier than air, even a slow-flowing stream of water can yield great amounts of energy.

Hydroelectricity, a renewable energy source obtained from moving water, supplies about 20% of the world’s electricity. With seven major rivers (Nile, Niger, Congo, Senegal, Orange, Limpopo and Zambezi) Africa, which holds about 10 percent of the world hydro-energy potential and, with very low energy per capita consumption level, has so far exploited a small part of its capability.

There is a high capital cost, and social and environmental impact to large dams. Because of this, renewable hydro developments today are increasingly focused on smaller-scale projects (less than 10MW). These smaller hydro-plants do not impact on riverine eco-systems, and using local technology and skills to develop small-scale hydro can also create local jobs.

Hydroelectricity can also be generated from the ocean (marine energy or marine power).

 

Role players

  • Earth Power
  • Energyneering
  • Momentous Energy
  • Southern Energy
  • Xylem Water Solutions SA
  • ZM Pumps

 

Further reference

 

 

Solar

Solar resources are by far the most abundant and readily accessible in South Africa, as Africa is well endowed with sunshine the whole year round. We have twice as much sunlight than that in Europe where solar power units are compulsory in some countries such as Switzerland. In Europe you find solar power “farms” where farmers make more money from selling surplus solar power to the national grid than from traditional farming.

There are two distinct ways we can utilise solar power, either by using the heat of the sun (solar thermal) or by converting sunlight into electricity with photovoltaic panels. There is also “passive solar” – buildings are constructed in such a way that they absorb the heat of the sun (by facing north) thereby reducing heating costs.

Agrivoltaics involves integrating renewable energy solutions in the agri-food supply chain. The same land is used for solar energy and agricultural production. Solar power for farms in remote regions is a viable option because they may not have direct access to grid-fed electricity.

Source: www.solardome.co.za (now defunct website) and www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/agrivoltaics-an-opportunity-for-jobs-better-food-energy-water-security-2022-05-04/rep_id:4136

Role players

  • ARC Agricultural Engineering
  • Algar
  • All Power
  • All Solar Renewable Energy Solutions
  • Aqua Earth
  • Averge Technologies
  • BTE Renewables
  • Black Dot Energy
  • Bundu Power
  • Current Automation
  • Earth Power Technologies
  • ElectroMechanica
  • Energy Partners
  • Energyneering
  • ENER-G-AFRICA
  • ENERTRAG South Africa
  • Fountain Green Energy
  • Genpower
  • Jeremiah Energy
  • JLinx
  • Juwi
  • Kwikelec
  • Mainstream Renewable Power
  • Marketplace Energy
  • Maxyield
  • New Southern Energy
  • New Way Renewables
  • Olivia Energy Solutions
  • Peco Power
  • Power Africa
  • Solar Energy
  • Solar Panel Energy
  • Solarworld
  • Solien
  • SON SA
  • Sonfin
  • South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers
  • South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVA)
  • Southern Energy
  • Specialized Solar Systems
  • Sun Electricity
  • Sun Exchange
  • SUNfarming
  • SUSTAINABLE
  • Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA)
  • Suntank Solar
  • The Sun Pays
  • ZM Pumps

 

Further reference

  • Contact the ARC-Agricultural Engineering at 012 842 4017 or stoltze [at] arc.agric.za for the following publications: (i) The construction of a domestic convection solar drier (plans/sketches), (also available in Afrikaans) (ii) Solar water heating system (plans/sketches) (also available in Afrikaans)
  • Watch the case for solar energy generation on farms (Carte Blanche, 2019) at www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7AP6GsZtbg
  • Find the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) “Solar” option at www.irena.org/solar.

 

Some articles:

 

Waste to energy/landfill gas

Also see the “Waste management” page.

Landfill gas is a complex mix of different gases created by the action of micro-organisms within a landfill. These gases can be collected and used to produce heat or electricity. Not only are landfill gas projects an important source of energy (what a creative form of waste management!), they also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some articles:

 

Role players

  • Enviroserv
  • Fountain Green Energy
  • HomeBiogas
  • Interwaste Environmental Solutions
  • Momentous Energy
  • New Horizon Energy

Wind energy

An example of wind energy with which everyone is familiar is the good old windmill (also in a separate chapter). But let’s move on…

South Africa, with its ample coastline, has the potential for major electricity generation from wind. Indeed, wind contributes 52% of South Africa’s renewable energy power, with more than 900 wind turbines spread over three provinces (SAWEA, 2019).

Source: https://sawea.org.za/stats-and-facts-sawea

 

Role players

Find the members directory at https://sawea.org.za/members/directory/

  • All Solar Renewable Energy Solutions
  • BTE Renewables
  • Earth Power Technologies
  • ENERTRAG South Africa
  • Fountain Green Energy
  • Juwi
  • Kestrel Wind Turbines
  • Mainstream Renewable Power
  • Momentous Energy
  • Solien
  • South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers
  • South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)
  • Southern Energy
  • SUSTAINABLE
  • Turbex
  • ZM Pumps

 

 

Further reference

  • The Wind Atlas for South Africa (WASA) Large-Scale High-Resolution Wind Resource Map is available at www.wasaproject.info. It gives detailed information of the surface wind across South Africa to assist planners, wind farm developers and others to identify areas for wind exploration.
  • Contact the ARC-Agricultural Engineering at 012 842 4017 or stoltze [at] arc.agric.za for the following publication: Wind energy.
  • The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s South African Good Practice Guidelines for Surveying Bats in Wind Farm Developments is available by calling 011 372 3600.
  • Download “Birds and Wind: Energy Best-Practice Guidelines” at www.birdlife.org.za.
  • Find the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) “Wind” option  at www.irena.org/wind
  • Download the Let the Wind Blow book for children at www.letthewindblow.org

Some articles:

International business environment

 

The 7th of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is “affordable and clean energy”. See www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment.

Some role players

 

Further reference

 

Some articles:

Local business environment

The motivation to become less reliant on the national energy grid are several:

  • Improved regulatory support for alternative sources
  • Increased electricity tariffs
  • Awareness and acceptance of renewable energy technologies
  • Decreasing costs of the hardware and installation
  • South Africa’s ready supply of renewable resources for energy production
  • An increasingly unreliable supply of power from the national utility.

South Africa has reached the tipping point in moving from dependence on fossil-based energy to renewable energy, and this trend will escalate further in the near future.

Source: Justin Schmidt in ABSA's Agricultural Outlook Autumn Edition 2019.

National strategy and government contact

Find the government/parastatal role players under the next heading.

Renewable energy generation is seen as a possible catalyst for increased economic benefits and industrial development by achieving various objectives in South Africa:

  • job creation
  • improved export competitiveness
  • assisting South Africa to reach its carbon mitigation commitments
  • safeguard exports from possible carbon tariffs and taxes and
  • build energy security
Source: Wessel Lemmer and Justin Schmidt

Refer to the “Energy” page for the national context.

 

 

The South African Renewable Energy Masterplan (SAREM) process was initiated in 2020 to drive industrialization of the renewable energy value chain. In July 2023 the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) was calling on stakeholders to review and provide comments on the Plan.

Renewable Energy Sector Engagement Forum (Resef) is a platform of communication and engagement between the renewable energy sector, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and Minister Gwede Mantashe around identified renewable energy issues, in the national interest.

The Integrated Resource Plan 2019 (IRP 2019) contains proposed allocations to renewable energy. It envisages the introduction of at least 6 000 MW of additional solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2030, before taking into account distributed solar PV installations. It also assumes the introduction of 14 400 MW of new onshore wind capacity by that date, as well as 5 000 MW of storage. Find the IRP 2019 at www.energy.gov.za.

Read about government’s Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZs) and Transmission Corridors at https://egis.environment.gov.za/redz.

Role players

Companies

Note: Click to expand the headings below.  To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order here. Disclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

SUNfarming South Africa http://sunfarming.co.za An international company supplying double-use Agri-Solar systems (providing shade, shelter while generating energy)
Associated Energy Services www.aes-africa.com Category: engineering and consulting
JLinx www.jlinx.co.za Backup power, solar powers and other products
Bundu Power www.bundupower.co.za Generators, inverters, UPs and solar products

Further reference:

Government/parastal

Finance and marketing support

  • Some of the consultants and input providers (see above) can help you source funding for sustainable energy initiatives.
  • Several international groups have helped with South African renewable energy projects e.g. African Development Bank (AfDB), www.afdb.org, Agence Française de Développement, www.afd.fr, and Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA), https://um.dk.
  • The commercial banks have units that fund renewable energy projects.
  • The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) www.dbsa.org
  • Provincial investment agencies like Wesgro have renewable energy finance. Find their details on the “Providers of financial services” page.

 

Websites and publications

Refer to websites and publications listed earlier on this page.

 

Some articles

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