More than 800 farm workers in the Free State now have hot running in their homes for the first time thanks to a SESSA member’s foresight and initiative.
The SESSA member, Philip Olivier of Olivia Energy Solutions in Bloemfontein, originally convinced a handful of farm owners between Bainsvlei and Dealesville that solar energy was the key to their desire to upgrade workers’ accommodation, and that the Pacific 100 litre low-pressure system the ideal solution.
These SABS-approved solar geysers, imported from China, are low-cost, hail-resistant and guaranteed for five years. They also utilise frost-resistant vacuum tube technology to withstand the cold Free State winters and triple layer absorption to increase efficiency.
Uptake by the farmers was such that Olivier initially provided 120 units to the region. They were installed by Eskom-accredited Loots Plumbing, with assistance from the farmers.
“Having the farmers being involved in certain aspects of the installation with Loots Plumbing certainly helped keep the price per unit down, which encouraged the farmers to seriously consider solar as a viable option,” said Olivia.
“However, it was Eskom’s rebate that went a long way to convincing them to invest in solar energy. Thanks to both the rebate and the farmers’ absorbing some of the installation costs, the installed cost per unit was very affordable.
“This meant that budgets stretched much further, and we were able to extend the project to benefit many more families than we had originally anticipated. One farmer, for example, was able to provide 30 families with access to hot running water in this way,” he said.
One of the arguments used by Olivier to convince farmers to investigate solar power as an alternative was the electricity savings they should begin to realise as families will no longer need to make use of electrical resistance systems – such as the elements in kettles and two-plate stoves – to warm the water they need for washing.
With the success of the initial project, several more farmers in other areas of the province have installed similar systems for their workers. To date, Olivia Energy Solutions has imported and overseen the installation of more than 400 solar geysers. According to Olivier, demand is still strong even though Eskom’s rebate is not as generous as it was at the outset; the electricity supplier had always intended to phase out the rebate system over several years once the solar heating sector had become established.
SESSA Ambassador, Irvan Damon, said: “This project – which in the scheme of things was initially a small step on South Africa’s long walk to ‘greendom’ – has grown in reach and influence. It is an inspiration because it shows what can be achieved with vision and a little hard work. Hat’s off to Philip for grabbing the opportunity and for facilitating an initiative that not only benefits the families involves, but all South Africans. We need more sustainable energy warriors like you.”
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