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Is solar feasible for every agriculture business? A deep dive into reducing your bills

Sunshine and agriculture go hand in hand, so why wouldn’t solar energy? After all, you have plenty of wide open spaces, uninhibited by trees or neighbouring buildings, to make the most of. What many solar pundits aren’t letting you in on, as they try to sell you the biggest system possible, is that solar energy alone isn’t automatically a cost-reducing move for every agri-business.

Solar has continued to become more and more accessible and feasible when it is designed with energy usage strategies at the forefront.

As demand in the renewables sector pushes solar technology and manufacturing to better efficiency and costs, pricing too has been affected for the better: Over the past ten years, we have seen the price of solar for businesses fall by over 80%.

During this period, there was initially much discussion and concern over the best equipment and install methods, leaving many businesses scratching their heads on the right move. But with time and the closure of “solar cowboys”, we now see a much more stabilised industry with prices less likely to drop any further. In fact, government schemes may actually make solar more costly in the future as rebate amount drops.

With this in mind, ensuring your system is sized correctly is equally important because it balances and optimises your ROI. No matter how affordable the system is initially, if it is not being utilised to save you on energy, a cheaper system may end up being a more expensive one in the long run.

Taranto Farms on the idyllic Mornington Peninsula discovered this, when a Choice Energy feasibility assessment revealed that previous quotes by other solar groups recommended systems two to three times bigger than what they required. Now, Taranto’s Choice Energy system sees them reduce their costs by $12,000 per annum, as well as further savings from our range of complimentary energy management services. Read more about Taranto Farms here.

Solar feasibility depends on your energy usage profile and needs

As an agriculture business, you have plenty of reasons to reduce your energy expenses. Between packhouses, warehouses and refrigerated sheds, your demand for heating, cooling, lighting and machinery justifies an exploration into solar energy as soon as possible.

But an essential element to utilising solar as a cost cutting investment is demand placement and demand frequency.

Solar works best on buildings that have direct feed to your energy meter because your installation costs and setup is far more straightforward. Solar panels themselves also act as an extra source of insulation, reducing building internal temperatures by up to 5 - 10%, making them a passive expensive cutter as well as a proactive one. If you are considering solar to reduce the running cost of remote machinery, for example pumps or irrigation sites, your installation is far more likely to be complex and robust, driving your costs up and potentially heavily reducing your return on investment.

With that said, mixed requirements do not mean you have no option but to pay more for grid energy. Choice Energy customer Perry Certified Strawberry Runner Growers experienced the complexity of this first hand, with over 24 separate meters across their site. We were able to not only provide a solar solution that reduced their daytime grid energy spend by 60%, but also run a group energy procurement tender that netted the business an annual saving of $17,000 on grid energy. Read the full case study here.

Buildings like warehouses and refrigerated sheds are often also utilised year round, while your pumps or irrigation may not be. Solar works best when it is actively engaged constantly throughout the year, able to harness both the warmer and cooler months to provide clean energy during daylight hours. As a result, a solar solution installed onto a refrigerated storage shed is more likely to see a higher return on investment than an expensive ground-mounted system scattered and connected across many acres, thanks to frequency and placement.

With placement in mind, Choice Energy created a diversified solar solution for wholesale grower Proteaflora, for maximum return on investment and viability. Rather than keeping their solar system to a single placement, it was found the business would benefit from two 10kW systems and a 5kW system strategically placed across three sites. The outcome? An anticipated saving of around $400,000 over the life of the systems. Read more about Proteaflora here.

So how do I know if my agricultural business will benefit from solar?

Establishing solar feasibility is not as cut-and-dried as measuring up your roof space and covering every square inch, though many lesser companies may tell you so. Instead, Choice Energy uses your current and forecasted energy usage to understand when, where and how you use energy, and what solar panel strategy is most likely to reduce these costs while keeping you cash flow neutral. By doing this, we can ensure your solar system is not only feasible, but available for you as soon as possible with as reduced an upfront cost as possible.

Reach out to us today on 1300 304 448 to learn more, or upload your latest energy bill here for a fast track start to your free solar feasibility assessment.

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