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Sustainable solar solution for dairy farming and production in the Creighton Valley

In the lush landscape of Creighton Valley in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a transformative journey to renewable energy is underway. Dairy farms and cheese producers, which have long been the backbone of the local economy, are turning to solar power to reduce their electricity costs and ensure a stable power supply. At the core of this transformation is SolarSaver, a company providing solar photovoltaic installations that are making a significant difference to these farms by reducing electricity costs and ensuring a stable power supply.

Dairy farming is an energy-intensive operation. From powering milking machines to maintaining refrigeration units, a consistent supply of electricity is crucial for the seamless running of the farms. The Creighton Valley Cheese Company processes approximately 70,000 litres of locally-sourced milk daily, transforming it into 6 tonnes of cheese. This process-intensive business also relies on a considerable amount of power.

Three years ago, SolarSaver completed a grid-tied solar installation at the Creighton Valley Cheese Company. The impact was immediate and significant, prompting owner Hayden Stokes to refer SolarSaver to other farmers in the valley and ultimately install a hybrid system (solar + battery backup) at Burnview Dairy.  

“SolarSaver’s installations have already made a huge difference to the farms in terms of electricity costs, having reliable, stable power, and reducing the impact on the environment,” says Stokes. “We needed to reduce our dependency on Eskom, and SolarSaver provides a scaleable solution.”

The need for consistent power supply

With the Creighton Valley region powered by Eskom, unstable power, voltage fluctuations and load-shedding have created ongoing challenges that result in significant financial losses and threaten the viability of these businesses. While grid-tied solar systems provide power during daylight hours, Stokes needed to find a way to keep his businesses operational and productive 24/7. SolarSaver recently added batteries to the existing grid-tied installation at Burnview Dairy to create a hybrid system, which is working well. Stokes plans to add batteries to the Creighton Valley Cheese Company installation and increase it by 50kWp.

“As milk is perishable, we risk losing thousands of litres of milk when outages occur,” says Stokes. “Load-shedding disrupts the daily routines of dairy farming. Dairy cows must be milked at regular intervals, and power outages can interrupt this process, leading to decreased milk production and potential health issues for the cows.”

Grid-tied solutions are offered through SolarSaver’s unique rent-to-own model, which enables solar photovoltaic systems to be installed at no capital cost while clients pay only for the green power produced at lower rates than Eskom. The company further provides solar battery hybrid solutions for a set monthly fee or as a direct sale. “While the rent-to-own grid-tied systems provide a powerful solution to save costs and provide greener power with no capital investment, we’ve found that due to the extent of loadshedding and the cost of generators, battery hybrid solutions can also make financial sense,” says Lance Green of SolarSaver. 

Through ensuring a consistent, stable power supply whilst reducing dependency on  generators, solar installations are enabling farms to save costs and maintain production. “Burnview Dairy and the Creighton Valley Cheese Company are great examples of how renewable energy can help farmers remain competitive as we work together to deal with power challenges and create a more sustainable future for South Africa,” says Green.

Pleased with the installations, Stokes referred SolarSaver to other dairy farmers in the Creighton Valley. As a result, SolarSaver has installed grid-tied and hybrid systems at Sunnyside Dairy, Vlei Villa, Twin Dams, Valhalla Dairy, and Helston Farm – totalling just under 700 kWp.