Farming is part of New Zealand’s national identity. Today’s Kiwi farmers are proudly continuing that tradition. But as with any business, a couple of questions hover in the air:
- How do you increase your farm’s production?
- And can you possibly do it while lowering costs?
Solar energy, as more and more New Zealand farmers are learning, is emerging as a positive answer to both those questions.
Installing a solar power system for your farm — whether you supply dairy, or run a horticulture or viticulture business — is an excellent way to power your buildings and equipment, lower utility costs, and help build a fresh, eco-friendly outlook for the New Zealand agriculture industry.
Here, we’ll share some examples of how solar works on various types of farms, and some of the many benefits agri-business owners are finding.
Solar energy for dairy farmers
Dairy farmers are finding solar to be helpful to their businesses in simple, practical ways.
Solar energy can power electric fences, charge batteries, run irrigation pumps, heat hot water cylinders, and even supply power for staff lodging, all adding up to increased productivity and lower monthly energy costs.
Every farm’s energy needs are different. But we can get an idea of the solar system size your farm may need, and understand the potential savings, by using a typical example. For a dairy farm consisting of about 800-1000 cows during milking, a suitable system size might be one rated for 30kW.
This would produce 150-200kWh/month in peak milking season, while reducing daylight power usage by as much as half or even more (up to 70%).
Solar for horticulture
Horticulture demands irrigation — which, in turn, demands lots of water and power. Solar can meet this need perfectly for horticulturalists, especially during the summer when irrigation needs increase.
Solar won’t only help irrigate your garden and field, of course. By outfitting your property with a solar panel system, you can meet all your lighting and heating needs, run all electrical equipment, and even have enough for your electricity needs at home. This means more consistent, and less burdensome, energy costs for your business.
You might also wonder where the panels will be installed. Depending on your property, your greenhouse roof might be the perfect spot. We generally try to set up the solar array on a shed or house first, but ground mount systems are an alternative that works just as well.
Solar for viticulture
The success of your vineyard depends, in large part, on your branding. And a great way to enhance your brand is to be the environmentally-friendly option. Using solar energy lets you do just that, while potentially helping your bottom line even more directly.
Not only can you save money, but viticulturalists — and indeed, any type of farm using solar power — can sell excess, unused energy back to their local utility company.
For larger vineyards, aside from buildings, solar energy helps with remote power needs such as water pumping and irrigation. This means spending much less than you would on a transformer. Solar water pumps are easy to maintain, and can come in handy where power lines aren’t already installed (and would be very costly indeed to install).
Solar payback for farmers: How it works
Within 4 – 7 years, it’s entirely possible for your upfront investment in a solar energy system to pay off.
Farmers can often see a 9 – 11% solar energy ROI. We estimate what yours will be, and your payback period, by consulting with you in person, on your farm, and accounting for the past year of your farm’s power usage. Using our Solar Savings Calculator for farms, we’ll determine all the figures you need to share with your accountant, including annual savings and internal rate of return (IRR).
For those agri-businesses that would benefit, we also offer a 7-year lease-to-buy option. This could help lower the impact on your monthly overhead, while giving you the savings benefits of solar — all of which we can walk you through.
Environmental benefits of solar for farms
As a farmer, by using solar energy to power your business, you’re contributing to the environment’s future health in several important ways. You will help eliminate air and water pollution, since solar energy generation doesn’t use water and doesn’t emit harmful carbons.
Thus, with solar, you can be part of the clean air solution, and help keep our waterways and precious water resources fresh and untouched by industry.
Solar is also the ultimate ‘renewable’ form of energy, as the sun generates 174,000 terawatts of energy per second — more than 10,000 times all of the energy used in the world. With a solar panel installation, you’ll be reducing your dependence on the earth’s limited fuel resources.
Solar energy can truly transform your farm operations into something better — for your business and for the environment.
Who would have imagined that a simple form of sustainable energy could lower your power costs, increase your farm’s productivity, and keep the environment healthy, all at once?
It’s possible, and solar power fits the bill.
As more Kiwi farmers get their power from sunlight, the New Zealand agriculture industry will be all the better for it.