Evolution: A Solar Event

Since its inception, in 1988, Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve has always valued and upheld environmentally friendly practices. From preserving the natural landscape, protecting the indigenous and endemic wildlife, and offering an eco-centric hospitality experience to guests. Our core mission has always been centred on developing our green initiatives and sourcing improved methodologies for a sustainable future in this beautiful space. These methodologies, which improve on the long-term sustainability of the Lodge, along with the offering we provide to guests on the back of an environmentally sustainable project such as that of this new solar farm, further add to the security and opportunities of the local communities that staff the Lodge and that benefit from Kagga Kamma’s corporate social responsibility.

Continuing this mission, Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve unveiled a new Solar Power Farm on the property in November of 2022. The new solar farm provides sustainably sourced electricity to the entire Lodge, meaning that the property is officially off-grid and is no longer reliant on resources that negatively impact climate change.

Engineering on the project started a year prior to the unveiling, in November of 2021, though Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve teamed up with SolaSynergi and MLT Engineering a long time before then. Outlining the project scope and determining the best system for the Nature Reserve was no small undertaking, as the Lodge has always aimed to preserve the environment and leave as minimal an imprint as possible. This stands true not only for the solar farm project, but with all operations, and is why the Lodge was built with largely natural materials and made to meld with the surroundings. The engineering aspect of the project lasted almost a year; longer than that of the actual construction of the farm, which spanned seven months, from March of 2022 to September of 2022. The construction itself further speaks to Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve’s conservation programme, as the whole system can easily be disassembled and relocated or removed entirely, without affecting the land.

The solar farm itself is large and powerful enough to sustain all of the Lodge’s needs and is coupled with a fuel-powered backup generator that can maintain the power supply during the rainy season, meaning that Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve will never need to be serviced by the local municipality. The set-up is that of a 356kWp (kilowatts peak) DC Solar Array with 300kW (kilowatt) Hybrid Inverters, 1200kWh (kilowatt-hours) Lithium Battery Storage and a 400kVA (kilovolt-amps) Generator. It is ground-mounted and north-facing and all 648 of the panels were perfectly positioned through a series of carefully planned engineering tests to maximise the sun’s surface contact with the panels throughout the day while taking into consideration the changing seasons. The total DC generation capacity of the system is between 350 and 360 kWp that refers to its maximum generation potential during optimal (sunny) conditions. To put these figures into perspective, this same solar energy system could effectively supply power to 50 average-sized family homes. At present, the solar farm supplies sufficient energy to 13 Chalets, 15 Lodge Suites, and 26 Staff Homes, as well as the Reception, Restaurant, Bar, Spa, Laundry and Communal Areas, though provision has been made for potential future expansion of the Lodge.

To ensure that Lodge operations can continue as normal and that guests remain comfortable, during extended periods of rain or cloudy weather, Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve incorporated a backup generator system into the new design. This integration was made possible using a PV design that uses revolutionary digital technology to automate and optimise the process of converting to the backup power supply. The system is equipped with a containerised 1200 kWh battery backup system including the main distribution board that has sufficient ventilation to maintain temperature levels below 35ᴼC. The reticulation, which is the delivery system of electricity, is done via a 3.3kV step-up/step-down configuration from the solar farm to the main distribution board. The battery storage system has a maximum depth of discharge of 80% and a minimum life cycle count of 5500 and is only brought online when the battery reaches 30% of the rated capacity. This means that the solar farm will be able to support the Lodge for a minimum of 15 years, before requiring a service.

Niel de Waal addresses the guests at the unveiling
Niel de Waal addresses guests at the unveiling of the Solar Farm at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve

At the official unveiling of the solar power farm, the Chairperson of the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve board, Niel de Waal, said; “As custodians of the reserve, we have a responsibility to minimise our environmental footprint. This new solar plant, which provides all of our energy requirements, is one of the last building blocks to make us truly green, sustainable and eco-friendly. We believe that sustainable tourism is incredibly important for the continued development of the tourism industry in South Africa and, as the stewards of this reserve, we have a duty to minimise the environmental impact of sharing this unique experience with our guests.”

Niel de Waal spoke at an intimate gathering that included guest speaker Monika Iuel, Chief Marketing Officer of Wesgro, Simon Gear as Master of Ceremonies, Charity Mbeki from Tourvest, Duduzile Gumede from Springbok Atlas, as well as additional key industry partners and VIPs. The unveiling took place on the morning of the 03rd of November 2022 with a tour of the new solar farm facilities, followed by lunch and entertainment at the Main Lodge. The entertainment celebrated the Cederberg community with the local band Die Groen Gras Trappers and traditional Riel Dancers. “Rieldans” is a celebrated tradition amongst descendants of the San, Nama and Khoi people. It is known as one of the oldest dancing styles of indigenous South Africa and commands the audience’s attention with fast-paced footwork. The event not only celebrated the launch of the new solar farm but the heritage of the land and its promising future.

The solar farm project aligns perfectly with Kagga Kamma’s mission towards being a true eco-lodge, and functions alongside our many other environmentally friendly practises, such as the use of green amenities in-room and as part of our housekeeping services, the replacement of plastic straws with biodegradable ones, and the introduction of glass bottles in-room for guests. Our efforts towards sustainability continue and this major project has only enhanced those methodologies for this Cederberg-based Lodge.

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