In South Africa, Yogurt Will Soon Be Made with Power from a Microgrid

Sept. 13, 2023
Danone’s new 5-MW microgrid will reduce emissions and provide resilience for its dairy manufacturing plant in Boksburg, South Africa.

Danone, a leading global food producer, is installing a 5-MW, grid-connected, gas-fueled combined heat and power (CHP) microgrid at its dairy manufacturing plant in Boksburg, South Africa, a suburb of Johannesburg. The plant produces popular regional brands including Nutrimel yogurt and Ultramel custard.

Built under a 20-year power purchase agreement, the CHP plant and microgrid will be owned and operated by Moshesh Partners, an independent power provider that is focused on renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects.

Moshesh Partners has contracted with Clarke Energy to build the turnkey facility and provide operations and maintenance services. Clarke Energy is a part of Kohler Energy.

Reduced emissions, improved resilience

INNIO Group will supply two containerized CHP engines and the microgrid controller. The controller will balance energy production from the CHP engines as well as the four existing diesel gensets, an existing solar array and a 75,000 liter thermal store. The thermal store will feed the existing hot water distribution system.

The gas-fired CHP system and on-site solar energy will lower the facility’s emissions, helping Danone in its global efforts to achieve net zero by 2050. CHP systems allow for the recovery of waste heat in the form of steam and hot water, which reduces carbon emissions.

The CHP system being installed is also hydrogen ready so it can be converted as soon as hydrogen supplies permit.

“This project signifies a significant step forward in South Africa's renewable energy transition, allowing Danone to become energy independent, thus further reducing its carbon footprint,” said Sigiso Shongwe, CEO of Moshesh Partners.

The microgrid will also provide resilience against the electricity supply challenges currently facing the South African grid. In case of grid instability or failure, the microgrid controller will switch to another of its connected distributed energy resources, maximizing uptime for the facility, which runs 24/7.

“With our frequent power supply outages, this microgrid solution will allow us to become independent from the grid, increase production uptime and integrate various distributed energy resources including hydrogen all while reducing our carbon footprint,” said Kid Nkantsu, senior director for operations and design to deliver for Danone in sub-Saharan Africa.

More food producers are investing in microgrids

“We are confident that this milestone will inspire other organizations to consider similar renewable energy investments, advancing our collective goal to combat climate change and drive economic growth in a socially responsible manner," Shongwe added.

In fact, the Danone project, which is expected to be commissioned in autumn 2024, is yet another in the ever growing list of microgrids providing resilience and reduced carbon emissions for food producers.

Arkansas-based Producers Rice Mill, one of the largest rice mills in the U.S., is on that list as is Bimbo Bakeries, maker of Thomas’ English muffins, Arnold bread, and Sara Lee and Entenmann’s pastries. Bimbo is installing microgrids at six of its manufacturing facilities.

Taylor Farms, a fresh food producer in California, plans to power its 450,000 square foot facility with a microgrid – eventually cutting ties with the grid altogether.  

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. If you’re presenting at a Microgrid Knowledge conference, you can expect to hear from me at some point! I have over 25 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. For the past five years, I’ve focused exclusively on recreational vehicles, electric vehicles, and the renewable energy industry, where I’ve written about utilities, solar, and wind energy companies (I like to keep things diverse!). I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.


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