Dairy makes history by taking milking off grid

The ceremonial switchover was performed at a ceremony at the milking parlour by Melt Loubser, chief executive officer of Fair Cape Dairies, on October 24.

When the cows at Fair Cape Dairies in Durbanville came down to the milking parlour last Wednesay October 24 – the World Day for Climate Action – they were making history.

While they won’t notice any difference, it will still be a peaceful place where no raised voices are allowed, they’ll still be carefully monitored and kept cool and calm as they file onto the milking table. The big change will be that the electricity that powers the operation during daylight hours will come entirely from solar power.

The solar PV project, which was constructed over two weeks, will provide clean energy to the farm during the day, and reduce the farm’s total consumption by 16% a year over its 25-year lifespan.

The project size is 99 kWp DC and the solar system can deliver a maximum of 80 kW AC.

The solar PV system is made up of 300 poly-crystalline solar modules of 330 watts in size, with one inverter.The project is expected to produce 166 125 kWh of energy in its first year of production, 16% of the farm’s current 1 053 295 kWh consumption a year.

The lifespan is 25 years and will result in 147 tons of CO2 reduction each year of the PV plant operating – this is a 16% reduction in the energy consumption of the property.

Fair Cape Dairies said one of the many advantages of being the only commercial dairy brand in South Africa where all the milk comes from a single herd of cows, on a single farm, is that changes such as this one have an impact on the entire operation.

“As a company, we are totally committed to environmental stewardship and reducing our impact on the environment,” said Louis Loubser, chief marketing officer of Fair Cape Dairies. “This initiative is part of that commitment.”

“This latest project means that we can milk our cows off-grid during all daylight hours. We know that the sun will rise every morning and provide an energy source which cannot run out,” he explained.

“Also of paramount importance for us is that the production of solar energy does not generate any noise pollution, which contributes to the comfortable, stress-free environment we create for our cows,” Mr Loubser said.

“The solar system will generate over 160 000 kWh of clean energy per year,” said Dr Chris Haw, chairperson of SOLA Future Energy, that developed and own the system. “Businesses that commit to clean energy, such as Fair Cape Dairies, are helping to lead the way for South Africa’s sustainable development.”

Guest speaker John Lucas from Explore4Knowledge said: “You are leading the way for businesses in South Africa. More particularly, you are providing an example of how a commercial dairy can apply green thinking across its entire business model. The way you manage the land, the way you recycle water and the changes you made to your bottles for ease of recycling, and of course, your switch to renewable energy, are truly the right thing for us and our environment,” he said.