Agriculture is pivotal to the Australian economy. As of June 2017, the gross value of agricultural production (irrigated) is AUD 15.5 billion. This comprises mainly of fruits, nuts, vegetables and dairy products. The industry employs 51% of the continent’s total land area . Furthermore, as per the 2017 estimates, there are about 88,000 businesses in this sector. These sheer numbers point to the scale of this industry and the consequential operational energy requirement. This is further evident from Agri Insights research that saw about 81% of Australian farmers emphasizing reliability and cost of energy as the main concerns for their business, The cost of energy accounts for nearly 11% of the total production costs. Cotton industry shows the most interest (53% of farmers) in transition to energy efficiency.
Australian Farmers – Renewables Adoption
Out of the total Agri Insights surveyees, 45% farmers are already using a solar power system with/without battery. In addition, nearly 9 out of 10 showed interest in transition to renewables like solar and wind. Sundrop Farms, with a 15,000 tons tomato production capacity, uses solar thermal facility. A 100kW solar system powers the WA Capel Farms, which is one of the largest dairy farms on the west coast. Egg giants, Pace Farms recently invested AUD 3.2 million across multiples facilities throughout NSW to reach a 2.7 million kWh annual generation capacity. Such a combined system can offset upto 10,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Furthermore, reports indicate that egg farms in the country have over 7.0 MW of solar power deployed or under construction as of 2017. Another adopter of renewables is the Meredith Diary in west Melbourne. They utilize solar water heating and biofuel for their energy needs.
In addition, many renewable energy companies also pay farmers to convert a part of their land to wind farm or install solar arrays. This provides additional revenue for farmers aside from offsetting their energy demands. It provides an added layer of financial security in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is sufficient to mitigate any risks and volatility that farmers might face. Wind turbines also boost the real estate value. Therefore, having wind turbines located in parts of land that are less arable becomes a valuable investment.
Most businesses and industries throughout the country are shifting to solar power and other renewables to reduce their operational costs. Considering that agriculture is pivotal to national development, this green energy transition among Australian farmers is most welcoming and will finally helps to enforce our renewable energy target (RET).