Irrigators switch to on-farm solar to reduce power costs
Farmers across Australia are choosing to invest in on-farm renewable energy sources to cut costs and reduce reliance on electricity providers.
Farm lobby groups have stepped up their campaign to reduce electricity costs on behalf of producers struggling to cope with rising prices.
National Irrigators Council chief executive Steve Whan said high costs were putting particular pressure on irrigators.
But some irrigators are taking things into their own hands and have adopted solar panels to help cut costs.
Queensland irrigator John Russo has teamed up with an electrician to develop a solar powered pump that will cut his power bills without reducing reliability.
Mr Russo has a 200 hectare cane farm near Childers in the state’s south Burnett region.
He said the combination of solar panels, a variable speed driven pump and a centre pivot irrigator had allowed him to triple the size of his peanut plantings.
Mr Russo said he expected future power bills to be slashed in half.
“I think the net back to me is something like $20,000 per annum so on investment it’s about 13.5 per cent on investment return [for] maybe six or seven years,” he said.
“Beyond that my energy is very cost efficient.”
Electrician Michael Betts helped Mr Russo design the pipes and pumps to help deliver water at an efficient rate.
“We are running an electric pump via a variable speed drive and using the solar to compensate the supply of electricity to that,” Mr Betts said.
Renewable energy reduces reliance on the grid
A Victorian potato grower says switching to solar will save cash and give him independence from power companies.
Alan Westbury, who farms at Thorpdale in state’s Gippsland region, said he was pleased that solar panels reduced his reliance on his electricity provider.
There are 368 solar panels across two sites on his property, which are operating a 200 horsepower electric motor for irrigation.
Mr Westbury said he was looking forward to becoming more self-sufficient while reducing costs.
“I spend $130,000 – $140,000 every year on power,” he said.
Mr Westbury said he had already seen evidence of a reduction in his power bill.
“At this stage [with solar] the power bill is about $3,500 a month, where it used to be $7,000 or $8,000 so it’s got to be making a difference.”
Mr Westbury said he was approached by a local solar power company, which sparked his own research into installing panels.
He said he would transfer the solar power supply to his packing sheds when he was not using his irrigation.
“Because you use sheds all season and the cool store and therefore the [panels] should be able to operate that at no cost,” he said.
Mr Westbury said he would know definitively whether the panels had reduced his costs by the end of June 2017.