Sunday, 30 July 2017 14:55

Give up farming, generate power

Written by  Nigel Malthus
A 30kW solar installation on a rotary milking shed near Rakaia. A 30kW solar installation on a rotary milking shed near Rakaia.

Farmers installing solar power can now get a better return from it than from farming itself, a solar power installer claims.

Electrical contractor Andrew Wells, of ABW Electric, Christchurch, recently set up Sunergy Solar to market solar photovoltaic systems. His company specialises in farm installations, marketed at farming field days and A&P shows; it also does residential systems.

Wells sees huge potential for solar power on farms: electricity charges for a dairy shed average $5000 - $6000 a month and solar panels now cost only about 8% of what they did 10 years ago.

Sunergy in March commissioned a 30kW installation on a dairy shed near Rakaia; its performance data show it should pay for itself in four years and three months, Wells says.

“We tell farmers this is a good investment [giving] a better return than farming. It’s going to lower your overheads so that if things turn down again you’re running a lower cost structure; you’re going to be more sustainable.”

Farm manager Gary McGregor says that he -- as the sharemilker who pays the shed bills -- and the farm owner, a big conglomerate with at least 50 South Island dairy farms, are interested to see how the installation performs. The owner will treat it as a pilot for its other farms.

Despite an overcast autumn it is performing as promised, exporting power to Meridian Energy.

Best returns are expected in the spring and summer peak of milk production and sunshine hours.

“It’s environmentally a good thing to do for our carbon footprint. It’s a good story if it can pay its way, and it appears it will. Everything Andrew said about it, it has delivered, in what’s got to be described as a below-average season,” said McGregor.

Wells says that before they design a system for a customer, Sunergy installs a data logger to measure the actual power usage throughout the day and compare it to NIWA figures for local sunshine. They have done analyses for dairy sheds, pig farms, cropping farm coolstores and service stations.

In a dairy shed the big loads usually come during milking at each end of the day. Though this doesn’t match peak sunshine time, middle-of-the-day unwanted power can usually be sold back to the power supplier. The Rakaia installation took three days, Wells says. “There’s no infrastructure, no resource consent. We bolt it onto an existing roof.”

The payback time for a residential installation (not depreciable) is reckoned about six years, but the company conservatively tells customers seven or eight years.

A calculator on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) website suggests a payback period of 20 years for residential systems, but Wells says this is misleading because it factors in the ‘opportunity cost’ of withholding money from investments. But solar energy is itself an investment, he says. “The numbers speak for themselves.”

Wells says electric cars “suddenly everywhere” show the energy revolution is coming.

More like this

NZ’s first energy demonstration farm 

New Zealand’s first Energy Demonstration Farm is at work, with an aim to find sustainable energy solutions to meet the Government’s carbon reduction requirements.

Savings showered by the sun

A Woodville, Tararua dairy farmer is halving his dairy shed power bill with a solar power system he will pay for in six years. And it has no batteries. Peter Burke reports.

Solar an answer

Getting mains power to remote stock troughs can run to $80,000 a kilometre, says solar power specialist Alastair Frizzell, of Frizzell Agricultural Electronics, of Kirwee, Canterbury.


Tributes to a dairy champion

Fonterra chairman Peter McBride has paid tribute to dairy industry leader John Luxton, who passed away earlier this month.

Dairy tops organic exports

Dairy has been named as New Zealand’s largest organic sector with exports of $153.8 million, up 55% from 2017.

Machinery & Products

Gongs for John Deere

The tractor of the Year 2022 Awards, held at the recent EIMA show in Bologna, handed out a brace of…

Digital pre-start safety checks

According to numbers published by ACC, more than 60 farm-related injuries are reported every day, leaving much room for improvement.

JV for Bucket Test App

Irrigation NZ and global farm management company CropX have established a joint venture agreement for the Bucket Test app.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Poo-powered BMW

OPINION: Car maker BMW is partnering with a California dairy farm to turn effluent into clean energy to power its…

Not bad

OPINION: New Zealand may be a minnow on the global stage but here’s another example how our ag sector punches…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter