Bill Yates has been farming for a long time. He’s seen a number of changes to the Australian agriculture sector, and expects that changes in climate will continue to affect farmers in the coming years. Bill has a large property and may look to expand at some point.
Sharing the water
Although his operation is dryland cropping, water is still a major requirement in farming operations. Because there is no local source of water adjacent to the property, Yates is a member of a artesian trust that owns and operates a large bore pump. Bill’s property is the largest of the trust’s members, and uses the water for various purposes including stock and domestic water use.
The story on energy
The energy story at Garah is similar to many large dryland cropping properties around NSW. Diesel dominates Garah’s energy profile and it is used to power tractors, harvesters and other farm vehicles. Without major irrigation pumps, electricity is mostly limited to farm house and farm hand residences, along with lighting and equipment used in the sheds. As Moree becomes very hot during the summer months, AC usage accounts for a large portion of the home electricity bills.
Garah’s energy profile
|Fuel Type||Consumption (p.a.)||Units||Conversion to GJ||GJ||Cost||Cost/Unit||Cost/GJ|
Cost reduction opportunities
Solar leads the list
The team from NSW Farmers and Energetics worked with Bill to better understand his operation and the way that energy is used on the property. This consultation resulted in the identification of opportunities that, if implemented, would reduce costs and enable more efficient farm operations.
The team identified solar PV as a way to reduce domestic electricity costs, and Bill has subsequently installed new panels on two homesteads on the property. He is looking to extend his use of solar and install PV systems across the property, anticipating a repeat of the sort of savings he is achieving at the manager’s cottage and a second homestead, which is in the order of $2,500 a year. With a payback of 5-7 years he is convinced that the investment is worth making.
Bill is also considering the feasibility of adding solar to the trust bore, which pumps regularly throughout the year and can be shifted to pump more during the day, when sunlight is available to run the solar system.
Other options identified include, fuel monitoring and adaptive driving training for tractor operators to reduce existing diesel use, controls on home HVAC systems to limit overuse, and negotiating a discount with Origin, his electricity supplier.
To summarise, the NSW Farmers' Energy Team found the following energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities:
|Solar PV main homestead (Amondale)||$10,000||$2,500 (8,000kWh)||4 yrs|
|Votage optimisation||$5,000||$1,000 (4,000kWh)||5 yrs|
|Artesian trust bore pump PV solar + control systems||$?||$?||?|
|Adaptive driving (non-contract vehicles), fuel monitoring & benchmarking||No capital||$3,500 (3,000 litres)||<1 yr|
|HVAC control||$200||$500 (2,000kWh)||<1 yr|
|Solar power for remote silos||?||?||?|
|Solar & battery for domestic bore pump||?||?||?|
|Ask origin for a discount||$0||$3,000||0 yr|
|Total/Average per opportunity||$?||?||?|
During a 2-hour discussion with the Energy Team in his office in town on a wet yet mild day in Moree, Bill Yates decided the priorities were solar PV for the homestead, realising the benefits of solar for the trust bore, more efficient use of tractors and obtaining a discount on electricity via the NSW Farmers' group purchasing deal with Origin.
Solar PV for the homestead
In order to improve the reliability of supply, and reduce electricity costs on the farm, Bill investigated the option of adding solar PV, including utilising battery storage as either a back up (for blackouts) or as a way of displacing electricity from the grid. At this point, the financial case for purchasing sufficient battery storage to go “off-grid” is still a difficult one, but when paired with the reliability of knowing and controlling you own energy supply, this option is looking more and more attractive.
Bill moved forward and commissioned two systems (one for each of his homesteads at Amondale and Delvin). These systems are of 5kWp and 6kWp in size and are expected to save around $1,300 per year and $1,500 per year respectively and experience paybacks of around 5 to 7 years.
Tractors fuel use needs monitoring
A significant component of the fuel bill for Garah relates to its usage by contractors who have different machines depending on season and the contractors employed. All spraying is done by contract (4 operators), harvesting is done by contractors with 6 or 7 each harvest (1 or 2 for summer crop), some sowing is done by contractors, as is regrowth control.
The difficulty for Bill and the team is being able to relate usage to each machine with so many unmonitored factors and options for allocating energy usage/saving across sites and machines. The answer lies in data collection and monitoring over a period of time. The team drew up a fuel table for monitoring fuel usage for each machine and application, so that savings opportunities such as driving set up and wheel slip can be trialled and the reductions in cost readily measured. Bill will establish fuel use KPIs per hectare and expects to target savings of around 5% or $3,500 per season.
Due to the nature of his agreement with contractors, Bill expects the latest and most fuel efficient equipment to be used at his property. This isn’t always the case, but with an exisiting contracting agreement, there are limited options to impact savings.
|Savings per year (GJ)||224|
|Savings per year (%)||3|
|Savings per year ($)||$30,500|