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How a major investment in solar slashed energy bills for these dairy farmers

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A significant funding in renewable power has helped a Gippsland natural dairy farm slash irrigation-related electrical energy prices from nearly $100,000 per 12 months to only $15,000.

Clydebank dairy farmers Wilco Droppert and Sandra Jefford milk 300 cows. On the top of the final drought they realised their irrigation prices have been unsustainable.

“We have been excessive power prices … possibly 12 to 14 per cent of our funds,” Mr Droppert mentioned.

“We thought ‘Geez, that is an issue. We have a excessive carbon footprint and massive prices’.”

The couple commissioned a farm power audit in 2018 and have since put in 150kw of photo voltaic technology to run a bore and two pumps to maneuver water out of the dam and to irrigation pivots — which give water to the paddocks.

With the assistance of pumps that may run at various speeds to match the solar energy technology, they’ve achieved 90 to 95 per cent utilisation of the renewable electrical energy generated.

Decreasing prices long-term

Greater than $1 million was budgeted for the undertaking, which additionally included different vital upgrades across the farm.

The couple acquired a authorities grant to assist finance the undertaking.

Two electric pumps float on a pontoon in the brown water of a farm dam.
Electrical pumps have helped scale back irrigation prices at Wilandra Farms, close to Sale.(ABC Rural: Peter Somerville)

“This final irrigation season, our complete prices for working our irrigation have been about $1,200,” Ms Jefford mentioned.

“It was a wetter and cooler 12 months and we did not have to irrigate as a lot as we usually would. However within the earlier summer season, our irrigation prices have been about $80,000.

“For the quantity of milk we produce, that simply wasn’t viable in the long term.”

They hope a extra typical irrigation season with the photo voltaic set up would lead to an power invoice of round $15,000.

Ms Jefford expects the undertaking to pay for itself in round seven years.

It additionally delivers non-financial advantages and the brand new system, which is managed from a central pc, additionally saves them time.

“Our greenhouse fuel emissions are a lot decrease than they have been beforehand, we have huge labour financial savings, in all probability about 15 hours every week [and] we get to sleep higher as a result of we’re not irrigating at night time.”

Solar panels installed on metal poles face a cloudy sky among a green farm paddock.
Photo voltaic panels have been put in going through three instructions to maximise manufacturing all through the day.(ABC Rural: Peter Somerville)

A system with smarts

The photo voltaic panels have been put in in a fenced-off part in certainly one of their paddocks.

The panels face north, west and east to maximise manufacturing all through the day.

Nonetheless a pc — which the couple confer with as “the mind” — additional helps maximise effectivity.

The inside of a shipping container with batteries wired together on the floor, surrounded by electrical equipment.
A delivery container homes inverters, batteries and a “mind” or management centre.(ABC Rural: Peter Somerville)

“The mind … permits us to match the power that is being generated to what’s being utilised,” Mr Droppert mentioned.

“So early within the mornings when there’s say 10 kilowatts obtainable, we are able to utilise the ten kilowatts on a bore pump by means of a variable velocity drive.

“That signifies that we are able to change masses on any pump that is pumping the water into the dam [up] to the purpose the place we’ve enough energy to pump to the pivots, which [requires] roughly 37 kilowatts.

“As quickly as we get previous that time, we are able to change that additional power again to the bore pump.”

Massive plans for future

Extra work is deliberate, with wind generators anticipated to be put in in coming months.

“We have a few pivots that also use diesel, so we’re whether or not we are able to get these to be electrical and use our renewable power there,” Ms Jefford mentioned.

“We’re hoping we’ll have the ability to run a farm micro-grid sooner or later, which might imply that our dairy might use the clear energy that we’re producing right here a number of hundred meters away.

“We have [also] ordered an electrical side-by-side car, considering we’ll finally exchange our quad bikes that use unleaded gasoline.”

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