Agro Processing and Electricity Savings

November 2015. A saving of a quarter of a large wine producer’s entire electricity spend, which represents a 20% cost saving per manufactured litre of wine, during the first year of implementation is impressive. Further, improving production, streaming waste handling, rectifying cooling process problems and producing the smallest, viable carbon footprint possible can certainly be considered a joint victory by Spier and MBB Consulting Engineers.

To achieve this, MBB in Stellenbosch began by establishing the base energy usage profile of Spier’s wine production, storage, cooling and waste handling processes in June 2013. Ten time-of-use meters were installed at strategic points in the winery and connected via modem to MBB where the results of electricity usage were monitored, analysed and conclusions drawn and recommendations made. This winery’s name has become synonymous with a “green” consciousness and numerous projects which aid society, constantly seeking ways of balancing a successful commercial enterprise with sustainability and the welfare of people.

“The company was experiencing very high electricity costs so the aim was to optimise electricity usage while improving production and quality,” commented Wouter Visser, MBB’s project director. “Within the first couple of months we identified energy overuse which was easily corrected and resulted in large savings.

Many companies undertake electricity audits on production lines but nearly all of them are selling some energy saving device or only focus on one aspect of energy saving. The difference with appointing engineers is that they evaluate the overall picture, taking into account the various aspects of electricity minimisation, from scheduling and management to reconfiguring or replacing equipment which is draining energy. All the alternatives are investigated and presented.

The first aspect tackled was aligning electricity supply with specific demands in various parts of the facility and the second was making management aware of how they could use electricity optimally.

Eskom offers various tariff structures which have different advantages and limitations. By evaluating and analysing the energy usage profile and Eskom’s billing structure, various recommendations were made, for example, by re-charging fork lift trucks during a low tariff time a substantial amount of money was saved.

Another factor was ensuring that expensive penalties were avoided by not exceeding the kilowatt limit within a particular tariff time. This centred on measuring electricity usage, working with Eskom and ensuring that management was given the information to use the tariff system to Spier’s full advantage. The energy use profile indentifies where improvements can be made immediately while more capital intensive sections of the plan can be introduced over time once cost versus potential savings have been compared.

“Some of the equipment on the production line was performing poorly and using a lot of electricity. These types of inefficient, energy hungry machines are common in wine cellars throughout the country as parts of production lines are relatively old and were designed prior to energy becoming a cost concern. Energy efficient, reliable machinery was installed which also increased production. This process offered a relatively short return on investment, as both MBB’s fees and the new equipment will be paid within the first couple of year’s saving on electricity,” continued Wouter Visser.

For over 40 years, MBB Stellenbosch has been involved in the wine industry and has extensive knowledge of designing and upgrading food processing systems. A mix of Civil, Agricultural, Mechanical and Industrial Engineers gives clients the best experience on nearly every aspect of their business, from saving resources such as water and energy to refining existing systems and compiling business models, to engineering turn around strategies for farms or factories.

It was also recommended that changes be made to the traditional method of waste disposal. The old single conveyor was replaced by a double conveyor system and other modifications were made which vastly increased speed, eliminated down-time and dramatically cut overtime wage and energy costs.

“There was also a problem with the cooling system in the cellar but the cause was difficult to isolate, especially as the old cellar had been extended and a variety of additional vats added over the years. Although cooling vats were replaced, the circulation system, which pumps cool water around the vats, was not distributing this equally. Following some detective work, MBB isolated many contributing factors but only replaced essential equipment to enable the system to work optimally,” continued Wouter Visser.

Some of the existing pipe work was not removed as it supported a dove’s nest with eggs in it at the time. The new pipes were installed by working around the nest and allowing the birds to raise their family.

“Having optimised energy consumption, alternative energy sources are being investigated to supply about 33% of the overall power requirements to critical sections of the wine making process during power outages. Spier’s concern for the environment is at the forefront of its decision making and it is keen not to over capitalise on alternative energy infrastructure but rather use energy wisely. The remaining electricity needs will be served by Eskom and the company accepts that there will be load shedding but feels confident that this can be incorporated into its schedule,” concluded MBB’s Wouter Visser.

For more information contact
MBB Consulting Engineers Stellenbosch
Wouter Visser
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Telephone 021 8871026

All photographs taken by Esmari Roux-Erasmus



Inside Spiers Wine Cellar Inside Spiers Wine Cellar
New pump and manifold configuration for tank cooling and water distribution at winery New pump and manifold configuration for tank cooling and water distribution at winery
Custom designed turn table which rotates bins 90° so they can easily be moved from one conveyer which is at a right angle to the next one Custom designed turn table which rotates bins 90° so they can easily be moved from one conveyer which is at a right angle to the next one
Waste bin conveyor system at Spier Waste bin conveyor system at Spier
Upgraded waste disposal system for grape stems, skins and pips at Spier Upgraded waste disposal system for grape stems, skins and pips at Spier
Newly installed isolated cold water feed lines to coolers Newly installed isolated cold water feed lines to coolers
Wouter Visser Wouter Visser