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Integrating alternative energy solutions into irrigation farms

Ultimately energy is a hot topic in Australia
right now. The problems we have with energy is first and foremost the shifting in pricing
over the last few years. Our two biggest problems are around the high
price of electricity and the reliability of our service to our pumps.
During storm events this pump is breaking down because of electrical surges and its
really affecting the reliability to get the water off the farm away from the cotton fields,
In terms of the cost to our business we’ve got around 20 electricity pump stations and
18 or 19 diesel pumps so we’ve got a really good comparison of the costs.
Ranging from a cotton perspective it ranges from that $300-350 per hectare is our cost
of energy just for pumping water. It frustrates me that we have the infrastructure
in place for electricity supply and the cost of electricity is so prohibitive that to keep
pumping water we’ve had to go to another option and spend our own money to go to a diesel
pumping kit to go to a better alternative. CottonInfo ran 3 different analyses on a farm
at Emerald, each with their own seasonal demand use characteristics and those were a river
pump, a centre pivot pump shed and a grain dryer. CRDC funded the project. The aim of the study was to find feasible solutions to integrate
renewable energy and storage into irrigation sites. So, up until now on-site co-generation for grid connected irrigators hasn’t been feasible
and we believe technology advances in renewable energy and potentially batteries in the very
near future can offer cost savings for irrigators I think renewables do have a place in the
future of agriculture and I think we’re in a good position where we can take advantage
of that. I’m not sure its going to be the solution
for everything but I think, in combination it’s definitely worth pushing hard to
integrate into what we do. The information flow has been really positive and
I’ve heard of other people going off the grid the same way as I’m doing and its given us
confidence to be able to take the step and invest our money into going into diesel and
move away from the grid. The river site was the largest site and it
had sporadic use. It wasn’t a feasible site because your renewables would be sitting there
being unused for most of the year. However, with the river site, we could reduce the cost
of energy by installing a diesel generator. You could actually save a million dollars
over the 25 years. We think there are solutions available now
for irrigators to cut their pumping costs. So the pivot was a really good site to do.
Being a large site, not eligible for a feed-in tariff, the solar installation was still
able to payback within 6 years and save $860,000 over the 25 years.
The technology that we are looking at – incorporating renewables into pump sites is a dual win-win
for both the environment and the economics. The grain dryers with seasonal use were a small
site, but because of the feed-in tariff eligibility, installing solar ensured the investment could
payback in 5 years The environment is very important to us in
what we do on the farm and we think about it in all the decisions that we make.
Look its no surprise to me that the cotton industry is working towards solving these
problems and that will enable us, as an industry to work toward a more sustainable future.

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