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Mossop Leather has overcome load shedding, and other tanneries are following similar paths

Published: 17th Jan 2024
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

The Mossop factory in Wellington, showing the number of solar panels it has installed. Cumulatively, they generate 1MW, sufficient for all its needs on sunny days.

Columnist H. Procter wrote about solar power in the November issue, noting that it could both address sustainability issues and free tanneries from load shedding.

“I had a call with Mossop Leather MD Gert Kruger after we published that article,” he wrote. “He told me it was possible to get all electricity needs with some planning and strategic thinking, and that its return on investment was much less than the 10 years I suggested. So, some great news and inspiring for companies across SA. A complete independence from Eskom is possible.”
Wellington, W. Cape, SA – In an interview last week, Kruger explained Mossop’s journey.

“Load shedding started becoming a real problem in mid-2022,” he said. “Prior to that, it wasn’t much more than a nuisance. But after it started becoming a weekly- and then a daily problem, you had to be aware of your schedule.

“We had an additional problem – in a small town, the municipality had no way of separating the industrial from the commercial and residential areas, so they couldn’t protect industry.

“In load shedding stages 4 to 6, we could lose 4 to 6 hours a day. It became difficult – sometimes impossible – to plan production of processes which take 10 hours, and to plan shifts, calling in staff at all hours when they had families to look after, and which also involved negotiating with unions.

“We were staring at disaster.

“Local customers could understand our problem, but we had quite a bit of export business, and when you’re trying to sell the country as part of selling your business to potential customers, you don’t want to explain that deliveries may be delayed by infrastructure problems.

“That was the motivation to get us to a point where we could again run a business.”

Mossop’s first assessment was that solar wasn’t a practical option, so it installed 2 500kVA generators in March last year.

They did the job, but they came with “a huge” diesel bill, which Mossop had to absorb for both local, battling customers, and overseas customers for the same reason the orders couldn’t be late.
Back to solar.

“There are quite a few options in terms of financing as well as equipment,” he said. “There are lots of companies doing this, and they’re all available to anyone doing the research. I’m happy to share details of the business we used.”

The system Mossop chose generates 1 megawatt (MW), which can power all its needs – office as well as factory – given sufficient sunlight. It’s also computer-controlled, which allows it to switch to mains electricity when it needs it, and to the generators if it needs it during load shedding.

The system was operational by September, “and since then, the generators have been providing only about 25% of our needs”, he said. “What we save on mains electricity probably covers the cost of the diesel for the generators.

“If load shedding ever stops, we’ll make a saving on electricity, but in the meantime, we can confidently say we’ve load shedding-proofed Mossops.”

Installing the system has had a secondary, unintended benefit: “When you’re dealing with international brands, being able to say that 75% of your electricity is from renewable sources is a nice claim to be able to make,” he said. “It’s an advantage we have over tanneries in

Europe, which don’t get enough sun to make a system like this viable.”

S&V African Leather emailed most of the major tanneries in SA to ask whether they were following a similar route. Not everyone was back at work, but the following responded.

Francois de Wet, MD, Cape Karoo International
Mossel Bay, W. Cape, SA – Cape Karoo International installed 1MWatt of solar at our tannery and abattoir in Mossel Bay and 2.5MWatt of solar at our Oudtshoorn tannery and abattoir. On sunny days, we are totally off the grid. During load shedding on rainy days, the generators must unfortunately stand in for the balance of electricity needed.

Mossel Bay


Shalen Sewnandan, MD, Pangea SA
Nigel, Gauteng, SA – Pangea RSA is not directly affected with load shedding. We work with the municipality and industrial park to reduce demand at set intervals, this prevents complete shutdown of the power grid. In addition, starting Q1, the plant is going to be retrofitted with its own solar plant. Over the next 36 months there will be substantial investment to reduce our carbon footprint overall.

Erlank van Zyl, MD, Ostriland Import/Export
Citrusdal, W. Cape, SA – We are in process of getting solar panels and batteries to run the whole tannery.

Steven Linde, Richard Kane & Co.
Cape Town, W. Cape, SA – Load shedding is of course an issue. We are investigating all options at the moment for alternative sources/mitigating strategies.

Rudolf Hanni, MD, Hannitan Leather
Springs, Gauteng, SA – We have installed solar panels at our Springs plant, however when the factory starts up in the morning the solar does not help much. During the day we do save electricity with the solar panels. When we have loadshedding our generators have to do the work.

Greg Feinberg, director, Cape Produce Co.
Port Elizabeth, E. Cape, SA – We have worked on a more balanced approach.
Over the past 2 years we have installed approx. 1 MW of Solar Energy as our primary alternate energy solution; this obviously works with either Eskom or our backup solution.
Coupled with this we have generator backup if required.

Ali Hakimi-Khiabani, Fusion Leather.
Cape Town, W. Cape, SA – Fusion Leather is in process of installing solar power. Fusion Leather is situated in Atlantis Industria and we have a load curtailment programme that enables us to have continuous power without load shedding. During load curtailment periods, we have to reduce electricity consumption according to the level of load shedding. This has greatly minimised disruption in production. 

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