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3 Years Strong: Hartswater Pecan Plant's Solar-Powered Irrigation System Proves Reliability and Cost

Once upon a time, in a beautiful Pecan Nut Orchard in Hartswater, South Africa, there was a problem with irrigation. The orchard had access to plenty of water from the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme, but the electricity grid infrastructure in South Africa was unreliable and subject to power shutdowns. This caused major issues for the farm, as they rely on a timed irrigation schedule to water the orchards. If a power cut occurred during their scheduled water delivery, they were unable to extract the water and would lose both water and money, causing the irrigation schedule to be spoiled and the trees to be left in drought conditions.

To address this issue, the farm decided to make a major investment in private power and turned to Ecotrades Solar Power Systems, a leading South African company in domestic and industrial solar power. With the help of equipment supplier Herholdts Group, Ecotrades suggested and implemented a solar project that included a 270kVA private power supply divided into two separate power infrastructures to avoid voltage drops on the cable distribution network which runs to 4.5 kilometers. This solution provided the farm with a reliable source of power, and the grid connection allows them to import some of the energy from the grid. After facing consistent issues with power outages and load-shedding, the farm decided to take the leap and go fully off-grid.

Ecotrades pre-installed the system in four insulated, air-conditioned shipping containers – two for the battery banks and two for the inverters. They carried out the work on their own premises before transporting the valuable cargo securely to the farm in their own crane trucks.

One of the biggest challenges in the installation was battery balancing. The installation includes 336 batteries, all of which must be connected using identical cable lengths. However, the team at Ecotrades, with the help of Victron Sales Manager Gerrit Tromp, was able to solve this problem with an ergonomic battery arrangement, wired into some heavy-duty bus bars.

The solar farm includes 18 Quattro Inverters/Chargers, 50 SmartSolar MPPT charge controllers, 12 Fronius Eco 27kW 3-Phase Solar Inverters, 336 Solar MD SS 202 7.4kWh Lithium batteries, 1680 Longi Solar panels, 2 Cummins diesel backup generators, and 9 Step-up Step-down Transformers, among other components. The farm also uses the Victron Remote Management platform, which allows them to view the solar farm's performance in real time without visiting the site.

The Solar project has been a huge success for the Hartswater Pecan Nut Orchard. The solar project has also helped to reduce the farm's carbon footprint, aligning with the farm's commitment to sustainability.

watch the Ecotrades video:

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