Tahlee is an irrigated broadacre property run by Joe Martin and his family. The property grows corn, barley and other grains, and includes a small stock of cattle.
The northwest portion of the state is often dry for extended periods. To ensure the productivity of their farm, the Martins rely on irrigation water from the local creek, as well as bores for when things get really dry. Creek water is less expensive than bore water, as it is already at ground level, and therefore takes less energy to move to farm crops. When there is sufficient water in the creek, Joe uses a diesel powered lift pump to divert water into his property reservoir, and holds the water until it is needed.
Because of the nature of the crops at Tahlee, large amounts of water are needed for relatively short periods of time during the year. The property is on the edge of the electricity network, and certain areas do not have access to grid power. Installing electricity for pumps or other equipment on these parts of the property would involve a large spend on new poles and electricity infrastructure, the bulk of which would need to be shouldered by the property owner. In the meantime Joe uses diesel which can be easily transported in large tanks to provide power for his pumps, and water for his crops.
Water management is energy intensive and expensive
Taking steps to address energy costs, the Martins took advantage of the federal government’s solar bonus scheme, installing a 10kW system on their property which generates income by exporting electricity back to the grid. The scheme ends 31 December 2016, after which point the energy generated by the system will need to be used on the property.
However Joe remains deeply concerned about diesel costs and the uncertainty surrounding future energy pricing.
“We invested in solar when the feed in tariff from the solar bonus scheme was offered but now we need to address our diesel use as it makes up 80% of our energy costs,” explained Joe.
Joe began work on site with the NSW Farmers’ Energy Team which conducted an assessment of the farm to, firstly, understand its energy profile and, secondly, to identify opportunities that would increase efficiency and lower costs.
In this case study we will outline the components of an energy profile developed by the Energy Team, and the process by which efficiency opportunities are identified.
Profiling energy use: diesel vs electricity
Per year, the property uses approximately 24,000 kWh of electricity, 65,000 litres of diesel and small amounts of LPG and petrol. The energy breakdown is given in Table 1 below.