Farmers share Renewables in Ag success stories at expo

Farmers share Renewables in Ag success stories at expo

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COMPLIMENTARY: The solar panels at Jame Squire's farm allow him to grow crops and graze livestock alongside the renewable energy project.

COMPLIMENTARY: The solar panels at Jame Squire's farm allow him to grow crops and graze livestock alongside the renewable energy project.

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Farmers from across the country will come together to share talk about how they've integrated renewable energy into their farming operations.

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FARMERS from across the country will come together to share talk about how they've integrated renewable energy into their farming operations.

Taking place in Dubbo, at the heart of NSW's first Renewable Energy Zone, the Renewables in Ag Conference is the brainchild of Narromine farmer Karin Stark.

Being held on May 19, the expo aims to bring people interested in energy and farming together in place.

"It's important for farmers to be able to get together and share their stories and also their challenges and mistakes so that others can learn from them," Ms Stark said.

Dubbo sheep farmer Tom Warren hosts a 20-megawatt solar farm on his property, which supplements his agricultural income. He said there have been "no negative impacts at all".

"I was very keen from the outset that I would get the opportunity to graze my merino sheep beneath the panels, the company agreed and it's been a win-win ever since," Mr Warren said.

"The sheep keep the grass down, reducing the need to mow between panels, and the panels provide shade in summer and protection from the wind in winter."

Victorian winery owner and farmer Paul Squires has a 100-kilowatt solar tracking system that produces energy for his farm and prevents the blackouts that "significantly impact our business".

"When making decisions for our business, our first criteria is around the economics and renewables just make sense for me," Mr Squire said.

"We are keen to grow crops under the solar panels including small horticulture or graze sheep."

Narromine cotton farmer Jon Elder installed a 500kW solar diesel irrigation pump on his property - the largest of its kind in Australia -and expects the system to pay for itself in five to six years.

"Diesel was the highest cost on our farm, and was a real constraint on growth and a factor in our vulnerability to drought.

"The partial switch to solar powered pumping has been a game-changer for us."

Mr Elder has also investigated producing hydrogen with the excess solar.

"As the world continues to grow in size and demand, I feel confident knowing that these technologies will move us and the agricultural sector, towards a more sustainable future," he said.

Victorian Bioenergy Network president Andrew Lang has been helping farmers use straw to produce bioenergy and the potential production of biochemicals to replace industrial petrochemicals.

"In Victoria, I'm helping a group of farmers near Ballarat who have been working on viable options for the use of straw as an alternative to burning, in the paddock," Mr Lang said.

"They have about 50,000 tonnes per year among the group just from baled up windrowed straw behind the headers and easily another 150,000 tonnes in the immediate district.

"In Denmark this would be enough to fuel a 30 megawatt combined heat and power plant."

Ms Starkin said renewable energy was a practical way for farmers to significantly reduce costs and increase business resilience, but there were knowledge gaps about what renewable solutions worked for what farming operations.

"That's why credible suppliers will be available to speak with farmers about opportunities on their farm," she said.

The expo will be held on Wednesday, May 19. Tickets range from $175 to $220. For more information or for tickets, visit renewablesinagconference.com.au.

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