Jon Elder installed a 500kW solar diesel pump on his cotton farm

Farmers for renewable energy

More and more farmers are recognising their role in combating climate change by  embracing renewable energy and reducing emissions which also brings cost reductions and lowers exposure to energy price fluctuations. Many of the renewable energy projects will be showcased at the inaugural National Renewables in Agriculture Conference and Expo being staged to help accelerate adoption of on-farm renewables and improve farm viability.

The show which is designed to overcome the gap in knowledge around on-farm clean energy solutions aligns with National Farmers Federation’s target of 50 per cent on-farm energy to be renewable by 2030.

According to event organisers the first-of-its-kind event being staged in mid November in Wagga Wagga provides a platform for farmers to share stories of what they have done with on-farm renewables, and present insights to groups including peak bodies, government officials and agriculture and energy consultants.

Speakers include a Victorian beef farmer incorporating batteries into his solar livestock pumps, wine maker Alisdair Tulloch who is carbon neutral, a farmer facilitating the build of a community owned solar garden on her property, and a company growing food crops beneath rows of solar panels.

Hydrogen tractors, bioenergy and a look at the energy future landscape for rural and regional Australia are also on the agenda.

Agriculture contributes approximately 15 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and, as widely reported, Eastern parts of Australia are experiencing the worst drought on record.

Karin Stark, Event Organiser said “It is widely recognised that the farming sector will play a significant role in combating climate change, and that the use of renewable energy is a practical way for farmers to significantly reduce their costs, reduce their exposure to energy price fluctuations and build business resilience.

“The Conference is designed to overcoming the known barriers to the uptake of renewable energy by farmers. There is a gap in the knowledge and understanding of what renewable energy solutions work for what farming operations plus there is a general lack of trust in solar suppliers, which constrains investment.”

Cotton famer Jon Elder said “We have installed a 500kW solar diesel irrigation pump on our property, the largest of its kind in Australia, and expect the system to pay for itself in five years. 

“Diesel is the highest cost on our farm, has been a real constraint on growth and a factor in our vulnerability to drought. The partial switch to solar powered pumping is a game-changer for us.

“Incorporating solar power also reduces our carbon dioxide emissions by about 500 tonnes each year, and we’re very proud of that.”

Sheep farmer Charlie Prell of Farmers for Climate Action agrees “There are opportunities for farmers who want to host wind and solar farms to work with their own communities, to get a fair share of the benefits from this large scale renewable energy generation.

“Hosting wind turbines on my farm provided a much needed secondary income stream, diversifying our farm’s income and helping us to ride through the recent tough years.

“It’s important that communities ensure that solar and wind infrastructure is constructed so that it is complimentary to agriculture, not in competition with it.

For its part the National Farmers Federation Roadmap 2030 has a vision of less reliant on fossil in the agricultural sector in favour of biofuels and renewable sources of electricity that are affordable and reliable.

NFF aspirations include supporting transition to renewable and decentralised energy sources, including piloting off grid renewable energy precincts; ‘’championing EV friendly regional towns and cities; creating affordable fossil fuel alternatives, reducing transmission losses of electricity; and growing demand and supply for new energy sources.

To key goal is to have Australia’s Energy sources 50 per cent renewable by 2030.

Conference details: 9am, Thursday 14 November at The Range Function Centre - 308 Copland St, Wagga Wagga.