Farmers and industry experts will address the adoption of solar, batteries, microgrids, and agrivoltaics (the combination of solar with farming) in the sector, as well as how emissions and power costs can be reduced at the Renewable Energy Workshop on October 6.
This October, Adelaide will play home to the 2022 Irrigation Australia International Conference and Exhibition, which will feature a Renewable Energy Workshop for the first time as demand for renewable energy soars in the face of skyrocketing electricity bills.
The nation’s food supply depends heavily on irrigated agriculture, but its continued sustainability and competitiveness depend on dependable, inexpensive, low-emission energy and diesel for water pumping. According to the National Irrigator’s Council, irrigated agriculture produces 93 per cent of fruit, nuts, and grapes, 83 per cent of vegetables, 48 per cent of dairy products, and 100 per cent of rice.
A session on future tech will see Neil Thompson, Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, talk about the hydrogen economy and how farmers could be well placed to take advantage of these new technologies.
Mr Thompson says, “Recent increases in gas prices on the East Coast of Australia have seen deteriorating margins in the ag sector. At the same time, volatility in diesel pricing has seen similar pressure on farms using diesel for vehicles and irrigation pumps. Accordingly, green hydrogen made from spare renewable energy and wastewater potentially offers some hope.”
James Stacey, an irrigator in South Australia who grows grains, oaten hay and livestock, has been using solar to reduce his pumping costs. He had expensive power bills of $5K or $6K a month before installing solar. His power bills have now substantially reduced, with the payback in about three years.
Mr Stacey says, “We’re able to export to the grid, so that helps generate a small income during the winter months when we don’t irrigate much.
“The rough payback for our solar was about three years, so it stacks up economically for our business. It has changed the way we irrigate too as we used to only irrigate in off-peak times, but now we can irrigate when it’s best for the crops and for us.”
Anne Dansey from AgVic will be speaking about the combining of solar and farming on the same parcel of land. AgVic has installed a number of solar panels above a pear orchard to test the impact on the trees, with early results indicating reduced fruit damage by sunburn and improved water use efficiency.
Entry is included with a conference registration which can be purchased at www.icid2022.com.au
For information on the renewable energy workshop program, visit https://www.icid2022.com.au/renewable-energy-workshop/