Mega Farming Operator in South Africa Goes Off-Grid with Solar/BESS/Generator Hybrid System

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  •  Louma Boerdery’s entire 2500 hectares of farmland has been taken completely off the grid with another 1000 hectares due for completion in the near future. 
  • The system consists of a 7MW solar array coupled with a 5MWh battery synchronised with a diesel generator system. 
  • Energy storage EPC, Freedom Won, and solar PV EPC, Thaba Solar,  teamed up to deliver hybrid solar/battery system for Louma Boerdery (the project client). 
  • Increasingly in South Africa, farmers are seeking to be completely independent from the unreliable Eskom grid and instead rely on renewable energy for the daily irrigation of their farms.
  • South Africa is in a massive energy crisis, rotational load shedding is getting worse and the cost to the economy is a massive R950 million a day.

The Eskom infrastructure in rural farming areas have been declining due to years of inadequate maintenance and lack of upgrades. Louma Boerdery experienced power outages on a regular basis lasting for days at a time, creating massive uncertainty.

Lourens expressed the need to eliminate his dependency on the Eskom grid to ensure energy security and to enjoy independence for sustainable profitable business operations. This decision was based on the billing savings obtained by a disconnection, and the forecast that the quality of supply from Eskom would continue to worsen.

Louma Boerdery uses pivot irrigation systems to water the crops from the nearby Crocodile River. The electric irrigation pumps must run at specific time slots and on particular days that are ideal for the crop growth cycle. With Load shedding and unplanned power outages relating to the decaying infrastructure, these specific irrigation timetables could not be met. This resulted in major yield losses on a regular basis.

Agriculture requires an energy input at all stages of the production process from operating farm machinery, water management, irrigation systems, cultivation  and harvesting. Lourens du Plessis from Louma Boerdery explains that missing irrigation targets on some crops for only two or three days, at the critical part of the growth cycle, can decrease crop yields by as much as 10%.

Louma Boerdery pivot farming irrigation system. Image credit: Freedom Won

To date Louma Boerdery has converted six large farms to solar energy, removing them completely from the Eskom grid. “Fairfield B” farm, situated near Thabazimbi will be our primary project focus for this case study. This farm has extensive pivot irrigation systems and has been running completely off-grid since December 2021. This momentous achievement was made possible through the installation of a Freedom Won designed containerised energy storage solution, incorporating batteries from the Freedom Won LiTE Industrial range with ATESS commercial battery inverters.

The solution

Based on the needs analysis done by Freedom Won and Thaba Solar a solution was developed to build proven technology – lithium iron phosphate batteries from Freedom Won and commercial battery inverters from ATESS, into a containerised solution.

The key is to properly understand the farm’s power needs in terms of peak demand, daytime energy consumption, and night-time energy consumption. Night-time energy is more expensive because daytime energy loads can be directly consumed from the solar panels. At night, the energy has to be obtained from the Freedom Won batteries. The costs of the batteries are higher compared to the cost of the solar panels, which means night-time energy has a higher average cost.

The standard procedure on the farm is to irrigate all crops at night as it reduces the amount of water lost. This was problematic as the cost is higher at night but, based on the calculations provided by Lourens, it was determined that he could irrigate the fields mostly in the daytime and only occasionally at night when catchup is necessary.

The battery size could be optimised (reduced) and more emphasis placed on solar power. Irrigation now typically starts at 07h30 and runs until 18h00 each day without interruption.

The entire project was funded by Louma Boerdery and comprises a series of sources, including bank loans. The repayments on these loans are less than his previous Eskom charges, which means Lourens now has a stable renewable energy solution that is costing him less.

5MWh battery containerised battery energy storage system. Image credit: Freedom Won


The main plant is contained in three converted air-conditioned 12m shipping containers that collectively house the below list of primary components:

    • Batteries – 2 x Freedom Won LiTE Industrial 1200/960HV+ (1200kWh per battery)
    • Battery Inverters – 3 x ATESS PCS500 (500kW per inverter – total 1.5MW)
    • Bypass Cabinets – 3 x ATESS 500kW Bypass Cabinets
    • Transformers – 3 x ATESS 500kW Transformers
    • 5 x ATESS PBD250 DC Charge Controllers (each harnessing 250kW from the sun)
    • 1 x ATESS Shinemaster data logger and Internet gateway

30 SMA Sunny Tripower 25kVA 3 phase PV inverters are installed under the panel arrays. The total solar panel installation is rated to produce a 2MW peak. The containers act as permanent inverter and battery rooms that allow for a quick and easy installation on site. These containers also make the equipment easy to relocate if needed.

There is also a generator room beside the containers with two 500kW generators. These generators are used only when high irrigation demands occur. The battery inverters automatically control the generators.

Freedom Won guarantees that our batteries will achieve a minimum 10-year service life or deliver at least 4000 charge-discharge cycles, whichever event should occur first. The lifespan of the solution implemented at Louma Boerdery is expected to last 20 years, with an allowance for a battery service around year 13.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal



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