Dairy farming is rewarding, but hard work.
Attending to the seasonal needs of the livestock and land, managing equipment, and running the sheds all take a lot of time and energy. Speaking of energy, many Kiwi dairy farmers wonder how they can get their utility costs down; one of the major expenses of any agri-business.
It turns out that solar power is the perfect answer.
Solar is a clean, alternative form of energy that’s applicable to most, if not all of your essential dairy farming needs, sometimes with enough power to spare.
Solar power allows you to efficiently utilise energy during the day and sell the excess to your utility company, enabling a quick return on investment in many cases.
Read on to learn how solar energy is making New Zealand dairy farms more eco-friendly and cost-efficient, and also how to predict how much your farm could save with solar!
Uses for solar on dairy farms
Just like electricity, solar energy can supply enough power for any task on your farm. But it’s a ‘cleaner’, free form of power that can yield an ROI for your business.
For example, solar can meet all the electricity needs in your milking shed, including lighting, heating water cylinders, charging equipment batteries, and refrigeration. A solar installation is also useful for remote applications, such as running water pumps to irrigate your fields, and powering electric fences for stock control. Dairy farmers can even use solar to power their homes and the homes of staff.
Solar is also a way to improve the business at large. Farmers are using solar as a means to increase the long-term value of their properties — a farm that’s self-sufficient and producing clean energy will likely be attractive to tomorrow’s buyers. Solar helps promote the image of an eco-smart farm that helps to preserve the NZ environment.
And of course, a properly-sized solar system can quickly help a farm’s bottom line.
Aside from the monthly energy savings, excess power fed into the grid can be sold to utilities, yielding extra income. Since energy rates for agri-business are moderately cheap and resale rates for solar power almost match, farmers can be paid fairly well. A huge benefit, especially when regular electricity costs can run into the tens of thousands every year!
Sizing and placement of a dairy farm solar energy system
Every farm is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all system that will work for every dairy farm. That’s because the size of an installation is directly related to the size of your farm.
We’ll provide an example...
A dairy farm that owns about 1,000 cows might see anywhere from $2,000 - $3,000 per month in energy costs. This translates to a power consumption nearly 200-400 kWh/month.
An appropriately-sized solar system for such a farm would be around 30 kW, rendering up to a 70% reduction in power consumption during sunlight hours.
Again, every farm is different, and a well-designed calculator can show you how much power you can save with solar over the coming year, and over the next 10 and 25 years.
As far as placement of the solar PV panels, a number of options exist.
Normally, panels can be installed on the roof of your shed. If the shed is not ideal, another possibility is a ground-mounted system, which offers very similar benefits to rooftop solar. Tilt frames can be added, which place panels at just the right angle to receive direct sunlight.
Solar system installation for dairy farms
When working with experienced installers, you can expect getting your own solar PV system to be a fairly simple, enlightening process. First, solar consultants will assess one whole past year of your energy usage, to understand your farm’s monthly energy consumption.
Since so many variables exist from farm to farm — the number of cows, the size and number of milk tanks, and the size of the field relative to your irrigation and electric fencing needs, just to name a few — calculating your farm’s precise power needs is very important, as it helps determine the right-sized solar system for enough daily power and the highest possible ROI.
Why not let one of our solar consultants walk you through the numbers, using our unique solar energy calculator specifically tailored to agri-business? You’ll know when to expect your solar power to fully pay you back, and you’ll see the savings of the system over the first few years, as it begins to lower your overhead.
Upon purchase, installation can begin...and your business can reap the benefits of being powered by the sun, from Day 1 of installation.
Solar energy is turning out to be the next big thing for dairy farmers. It’s an innovation that lowers costs, adds income and future-proofs the business.
If you want to lower utility expenses for your dairy farm, while joining a new movement of sustainable agriculture that protects our environment, think about investing in an agricultural solar energy installation today.