Audits help farmers cut costs

Queensland farmers serious about energy efficiencies and renewables


Power Struggle
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In the second installment of a four part electricity series, QFF outlines how the Energy Savers Program is helping farmers significantly reduce energy costs.

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This article was compiled by QFF as part of a four-part series looking in to how the state’s electricity network can be improved to better service agriculture.

This article was compiled by QFF as part of a four-part series looking in to how the state’s electricity network can be improved to better service agriculture.

The Energy Savers Program, funded by the Qld Government and delivered by the Qld Farmers’ Federation (QFF) in partnership with Ergon, is assisting farmers to reduce energy costs by supporting the adoption of improvements in on-farm energy use.

Over 130 audits of irrigation and on-farm processing systems are being conducted to assist farmers to identify suitable energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities. To date, the audits have identified a range of opportunities to reduce energy costs, with almost $3 million of annual energy cost savings identified with payback periods of 5 years or less. 

Recommendations have included reducing friction losses in irrigation pipes, replacing oversized or inefficient motors and pumps, and adding variable speed drives.

On-farm processing opportunities include maintaining coldroom doors and seals, solar water heating, ventilation efficiency in intensive animal industries, upgrading or consolidating refrigeration systems, and solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems.

A Mareeba banana farm is reducing the irrigation costs on one pump serving 11 blocks by almost $40,000 per year with the addition of a variable speed drive and a tariff change recommended in the audit. As an added bonus, they are achieving more consistent watering and expect reduced maintenance costs.

A Mareeba banana farm is reducing the irrigation costs on one pump serving 11 blocks by almost $40,000 per year.

A Brisbane nursery is reducing energy consumption by 45pc to 70 megawatt hours per year after installing a solar water heating system, a new smaller variable speed pump and LED lighting. This has realised $12,000 in annual electricity cost savings, recouping their investment within a year; and the ability to deliver a more consistent product. The results are showing that as well as energy savings, farmers are seeing benefits through better irrigation efficiency, lower maintenance costs and even some time savings.

QFF and Ergon are assisting farmers with implementation advice after the audits, with over 54pc having implemented some findings or indicating an intention to implement. This number is expected to grow. 

Commitment to continue assisting farmers through on-farm energy efficiencies must include:

  • further integrating energy and water efficiency initiatives that recognise the energy-water-climate nexus to provide additional integrated audits
  • non-irrigation energy consumption such as packing and processing
  • tariff reform to ensure that agricultural businesses are rewarded with proportionate cost savings where energy efficiencies are made.
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