High energy costs have been front of mind for cotton growers like Don Baartz for decades and many have turned their attention to solar systems to combat rising bills.
Mr Baartz recently opened the gates to his Darling Downs property, Arcadia, to showcase his solar systems.
The Baartz family farms 700 hectares of cultivation, with chickpea currently in the ground and cotton to go in in the coming months.
But with a pump set up running off solar power – all eyes were on Mr Baartz’s irrigation system at the field day. He said the project was set up as a case study through Cotton Australia and solar consulting and construction firm Websters Group.
Before undertaking the case study, Mr Baartz had already been exploring solar options due to the rising cost of electricity.
The bore in question had already been flagged as being suitable, and Mr Baartz had plans to put solar panels there, which then rolled into becoming the case study for the project.
He said the field day was a chance for neighbouring growers to see the technology first-hand.
“It was a way to demonstrate the equipment available today, and to give an actual demonstration in real time of the capabilities of the system,” he said.
“It was also about showing return on investment.”
The infrastructure and solar fittings were built at the end of the last cotton season, and began pumping this month.
With cotton generally planted in October, Mr Baartz said he was looking forward to seeing it in action for the coming season.
Last week Mr Baartz was busy installing his second system, a 40KW unit at another bore site.
While every investment comes with some risk, Mr Baartz said he is expecting the infrastructure to have a 40 year life span.
“We have the best quality panels and inverters,” he said.
“A lot of the ground mount systems are quick modular, but especially in black soil are quite temporary.
“So they (Proven Energy Solutions) came up with a new mounting system, which is very effective and uses common building materials so you can repair it quite easily if you wreck it.”
He said taking the step towards solar was a logical one for farmers – and compared utilising solar energy to farming itself.
“I do have an interest in solar - it's more or less a primary industry,” he said.
“It's what we're doing as farmers already - we're using moisture and sunlight now to produce energy with cereal crops and cotton seed, so it’s not dissimilar to what we already do.”
He said the financial benefits of solar were already apparent.
”Because our bore water is deep, and although supplies aren't huge, it does cost us a lot per ML to lift it out,” he said.
“So there's smaller bores ideally suited to supplementing the solar.”
While solar is the main driver of the bore currently in use, it still maintains a grid connection.
“With the new equipment that's available it can allocate exact KWs to the grid and you can integrate into existing system,” Mr Baartz said.
“There was an existing 6KW solar system, so it can all be integrated and managed, and Ergon is happy with it.”