Australia’s energy crisis is helping forge new alliances between the dairy sector and industry groups hit by soaring prices and renewable energy suppliers keen to reach out to new markets.
Industry advocacy group Dairy Connect and renewables supplier Solar Bay recently announced an alliance designed ultimately to build dairy producer solar energy technologies and funding packages.
Solar Bay is working with the University of Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources in undertaking research and development in generation and thermal storage solutions for dairy producers.
Solar Bay’s national business director Cameron Quin said conventional dairy farms were likely to be able to save about 20 to 30 per cent on their existing energy bills using on-site renewable generation paired with storage technology.
‘‘In robotic dairies, savings could be in the order of up to 50 per cent compared with today’s overhead costs,’’ he said.
‘‘Depending on the investment package, all this could be without producers incurring any infrastructure cost.
‘‘We have investment funds committed to building our presence in this important primary production market.
‘‘As battery storage technology develops, we’re going to be in a far more favourable renewable energy environment.
‘‘Prominent NSW dairy producers in conventional and robotic dairying are actively investigating solar solutions and we’re assisting in that journey.’’
Mr Quin said Solar Bay was unequivocal in its belief that farmers were paying far too much for the energy they consumed.
‘‘In Queensland, farm gate power bills have doubled since 2009. This is four times higher than the Consumer Price Index increase during the same period,’’ he said.
‘‘NSW has seen a similar price rise and energy reliability in regional and rural areas is a constant issue. Farmers operating independently from the grid has become a real option.’’
Dairy Connect chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said renewables had a critical role to play in delivering lower cost energy to the dairy industry in the future.
‘‘Obviously, in the short term we’re going to have to source electricity from a range of providers, including renewables, coal and gas,’’ he said.
‘‘But the amount of investment going into research and development and the quality of the institutions conducting that R&D give us cause for great optimism about the pathways forward.’’