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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