The future of ag is solar

The sun was shining bright on Narromine with Australia’s largest solar diesel hybrid irrigation system officially turned on in an exciting launch party on Friday 21 September.

The 1500 solar panels cover almost one hectare of land on Jon Elder’s 6000 acre cotton and wheat irrigated farm.

Special guests of the historical event were Minister of Primary Industries and Regional Water Niall Blair, Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Mark Coulton and the National Farmers’ Federation’s President Fiona Simson.

Hon. Mark Coulton MP, farm owner Jon Elder and NFF President Fiona Simson.

As of Friday, Mr Elder’s irrigation system will be run by a 500kw solar system during the day and as the sun goes down the diesel generator will gradually kick in to water his farm.

Before the installation of their solar system, diesel was Mr Elder’s largest annual bill.

Areal view of Jon Elders solar panels on his farm in Narromine NSW.

He was using 350,000 litres of diesel to pump his bores each year – with the diesel costing over $1/litre.

The energy he uses to run his farm per annum was equivalent to running 70 Australian households.

“The decision to install these solar panels was a no-brainer. We expect our bills to be cut in half and the money we will be saving on diesel consumption will pay back the investment in five years.

“By switching to the hybrid system we will be producing 500 tonnes less greenhouse gas each year. The environmental advantages are incredible,” Mr Elder said.

The irrigation system at work.

In the last ten years the price of solar panels has dropped by 85%, which has lead to more farmers making the business decision to use solar in their everyday farming practices.

“The energy debate in Australia has very much been about affordability and reliability of energy sources. But on farms, it’s really exciting to be able to provide some of that energy ourselves and actually attack our bottom lines and attack some of the costs of doing business,” National Farmers’ Federation’s President Fiona Simson said.

Jon Elder as he walks past his 1500 solar panels.

According to Mr Stark, events such as these which celebrate the partnership of agriculture and technology is a monumental step in the right direction for agriculture and will promote more people to join the agricultural industry.

“We are demonstrating that if you want a career in agriculture you will have the opportunity to use cutting edge technology, provide food and fibre for the world and help it towards a more sustainable future,” Mr Elder said.

“The mood in agriculture and the potential for agriculture at the moment has never been more positive,” Ms Simson said.

Andrea Martinello

Andrea Martinello

Andrea is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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