Lourensford has reinforced its reputation for conservation of the beautiful natural environment of this well-known wine estate in Somerset West by investing in solar energy. More than R7m has been spent on the installation of a modern 500kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) plant on the roof of the winery.

The installation of the system is part of the long-term strategy to generate more natural energy and in this way contribute to sustainable energy and the protection of the ecosystem. A big bonus is that this also takes the estate a step closer to producing carbon neutral wines.

Lourensford is a Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion Winery and belongs to successful South African businessman and entrepreneur Dr Christo Wiese, the driving force behind the PV system, which is now up and running. It is an extension of a well-established program of sustainable agriculture, nature conservation, recycling and the eradication of invasive plants.

“If one is exposed to the incredible natural beauty of Lourensford Estate every day, one cannot but develop a desire to conserve the environment,” says Koos Jordaan, general manager of Lourensford Estate. “Dr Wiese encouraged us to have studies done to evaluate the most sustainable format for the creation of alternative energy. As shareholder of a number of national enterprises he is acutely aware of the need to do business in a more environmentally friendly manner and to obtain alternative sources of energy.

“The Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at the University of Stellenbosch was approached for research and recommendations. The resources and capacity of the University were invaluable in terms of financial evaluation and technical specifications, as well as support with the tender documentation and the final selection of the engineering contractor, Sustainable Power Solutions. Using solar power made practical sense, as the roof of the cellar faces north, and solar power is non-mechanical, quiet, clean and invisible. It is also practically maintenance free with a performance guarantee of more than 20 years on the PV modules.”

The 2,000 PV modules on the roof help to save electricity costs and to shrink the estate’s carbon footprint drastically. It will supply 100% of the cellar’s annual electricity needs and will once again confirm the estate’s status as a long-term environmentally friendly and innovative producer.

The PV plant generates electricity during daylight hours and feed it to Lourensford’s internal electricity grid. At night the plant goes into a stand-by mode. Solar panel energy is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and feeds to the cellar’s main distribution board, from where it is firstly utilised by the wine cellar, and the surplus is supplied to the rest of Lourensford’s users.

Lourensford is a 4,000 hectare estate with the cultivation of fruit, wine grapes and forestry as main activities. Emphasis is placed on the conservation of the estate’s unique biodiversity and rich fauna and flora heritage. The estate has a conservation area of about 1,200 hectares consisting mainly of the Lourens, Landdros and Amandel Rivers, wetlands, indigenous woodlands and fragments of the endangered Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos. The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) monitor the conservation of this biodiverse area.

Lourensford produces a wide variety of quality wines and has won numerous coveted prizes and medals at both local and international wine shows. The natural beauty and gardens of the estate make the function venue exceptional, and it is also a popular destination for wine tasting and restaurant visitors.