5 October 2017

Award-winning olive oil producer switches to solar

Life at Absa |

“Where there is quality, there is no compromise.” This is the philosophy that guides Giulio Bertrand, the owner of Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate in Somerset West. This is what inspired his decision, in the early 90s, to start producing olive oil when an olive oil culture didn’t exist in South Africa. And it is this philosophy that has ensured the Morgenster’s Bordeaux and Italian styled wines, and its extra virgin olive oil are consistently judged to be among the best in the world.

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When Bertrand bought the estate in 1992, he moved from Piedmont, Italy; the same journey that Morgenster’s first owner, Jacques Malan, had made more than 300 years earlier. If owning such an exquisite piece of South African wine history might have been what drove Bertrand to put down roots, it’s his eye to the future that will help strengthen these roots.

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It was unsurprising, then, that the olive-oil pioneer would turn to technology to upgrade his estate and approach Absa’s Business Banking team to help finance a solar solution to powering production. Justin Schmidt, Head of Renewable Energy, is keen to stress that financing is tailored to suit each customer’s unique needs. Given the 300-year history, Morgenster, and most customers in the agricultural sector is in it for the long-term and appreciate finance solutions over a longer tenure. Specifically, in Morgenster’s case, a period of ten years. While projects in the agricultural sector take longer to break even on their investment, due to the lower tariffs they are paying, structuring the loan repayments can allow for these to be comparatively cheaper than the cost of the power they’re replacing by producing their own. The potential savings, the decreased reliance on traditional power sources, and a reduced carbon footprint are drawing strong interest from the wine industry and the agricultural sector as a whole. Schmidt was talking from an event in the Winelands, where industry stalwarts are following in Bertrand’s footsteps and investing in the sustainability and longevity of the winemaking business in South Africa.

A climate ideal for growing grapes and olives is also perfectly suited to harvesting solar energy. A two year feasibility study showed maximum energy use in the wine cellar and elsewhere on the farm matches sunshine hours. So, in late 2016, the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) began on the Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate. A solar PV system is made up of solar cells that point towards the sun, which an inverter then converts from direct current (DC) into usable alternating current (AC). A well-maintained system can have a lifespan of more than twenty years and can be paid off in less than half that time.

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On Morgenster, the solar power generated is already providing almost two-thirds of the electricity needed to run the wine cellar, olive factory, tasting room, restaurant, the homes on the estate, and agricultural equipment; greatly reducing the environmental impact of the estate.

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And has this switch to renewable energy had any effect on the olive oil produced on the estate? At the annual Morgenster olive harvest festival, in May 2017, Bertrand declared the quality of 2017 oil as fantastic. Their world-renowned extra virgin olive was once again one of the winners in this year’s Absa Top 10 Olive Oil Awards in the Intense Flavour category.

Find out more about growing your AgriBusiness with Absa here.

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.

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