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Australian Agriculture Adopts Energy ‘Hedging’: Solar

October 21, 2011

The Murray-Darling is Australia’s longest river at over 3000 km, and drains over a million square kilometres.   Much of Australia’s food crops are grown in the catchment, depending on massive irrigation networks for reliable water supplies, and abundant sunshine for crop photosynthesis.

Farmers are used to managing and harnessing their natural resources, and having to adapt to short- and long-term variability and stresses.  One element that they’re now apparently capturing more of is solar energy.

Last week, we spotted a series of single-axis 10 kW solar arrays at the edges of irrigated land.

Solar Array, Murray Darling. Copyright commercial climate 2011

With substantial electricity price increases, and a greater need for energy-hungry water pumping in recent years, investment in energy systems makes good sense for farmers.

Installed costs for larger applications such as this, with limited planning issues, have made solar installations an appealing proposition even without subsidy.

It seems, however, that these systems attracted the old, doomed, New South Wales gross feed-in-tariff.  All electricity produced by these systems benefit from a (grossly) inflated tariff under this system – including electricity locally consumed.

It transpires that these particular farmers have developed their own single-axis tracking system (quite visible in this photo) which they are now manufacturing for commercial sale.

These farmers are smart:  hedging risk exposure – indeed profiting from the challenge – through doing what they do best – harnessing the natural elements.

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