AFRISKI Mountain Resort has introduced a M1 million automated snowmaking system that uses a reduced amount of energy while maximising snow production.
The implementation of the system started at the end of April 2020. The system was installed by MND Group while the commissioning and testing started on 1 May.
The equipment comprises of a storage dam located at the top of the mountain, a one-kilometre pipeline, a snowmaking booster pump, a transformer and electrical controls.
In the past, the resort relied on snowmakers to manually monitor wind, temperature and humidity conditions.
Afriski is a tourist destination located in the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains of the Butha-Buthe district and attracts 10 000 visitors annually during the winter season.
Resorts increase natural snowfall with manufactured snow by way of pumping water into snow making lines. Afriski’s new state-of-the-art system will work with a newly built high-altitude dam that uses gravity to feed water into these lines.
The resort told the Weekender this week that the its manual system would use 900kW of energy and had a “lag time of 30 minutes for the lines to be filled with water before snow” production started.
On the other hand, the new automated system will save 500kW of energy per-hour during peak demand of snowmaking.
Graham Joyce, Afriski’s technical director, said snow production is intensive in terms of energy and water usage.
He said resorts are improving efficiency through the use of renewable energy and better weather prediction
“In previous years, we were only able to utilise 40 percent of the available snowmaking hours due to the delay in start-up and temperature during a night of snowmaking,” Joyce said.
“With the new automated snowmaking and gravity pumping system, we hope to increase snowmaking hours by 50 percent and double the volume of snow that we can produce each winter.”
He added that snowmaking was beneficial to their host community by way of “creating employment in the snowmaking division and supporting business that supply the hospitality trade”.