New guide offers practical tips for on-farm clean energy

A practical new guide has outlined 51 opportunities for farmers to save money on their energy bills by embracing clean energy.

The Guide – Transforming Australian Agriculture with Clean Energy – has been produced by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) with the twin goals of increasing on-farm efficiency and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

NFF CEO Tony Mahar said the Guide is all about ready-made solutions that offer genuine benefits to farmers.

“The Guide collates information on proven and emerging technologies. It establishes how farmers can reduce their energy consumption and lower emissions, using realistic cost estimates.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the Guide would help grow the benefits farmers were already getting from clean energy.

“Already more than 1,100 agriculture projects are drawing on $260 million in CEFC finance to invest in solar PV, lower emissions farm equipment, energy efficient machinery upgrades and biomass energy-from-waste,” CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said.

“This Guide is another exciting way we are bringing the substantial benefits of one of our newest industries, clean energy, to one of our most established, agriculture.”

The potential energy efficiency technologies range from variable speed drives and smart controls to best-in-class tractors and refrigeration equipment. Renewable energy solutions include increasingly cost-effective solar PV as well as on-farm microgrids, which are particularly relevant in remote areas or where network connections are expensive.

7 ways farmers can act

The Guide recommends the following 7 steps for farmers looking to conserve energy and reduce emissions:

  1. Conduct an energy audit: This is an important first step to understand current energy use and prioritise energy-related investment decisions.
  2. Generate your own energy: The farm sector is ideally suited to producing renewable energy and alternative fuels. This includes solar PV, small-scale wind and bioenergy, as well as on-site storage.
  3. Upgrade vehicles and machinery: Tractors, ancillary equipment and vehicles can be easily made more energy-efficient, often with relatively little capital expense. This is particularly the case for cropping systems, where upgrades can cut fuel consumption and increase operational efficiency.
  4. Improve irrigation and pumping: Energy-efficient irrigation and water management practices have the potential to improve water use through the use of technologies such as variable-speed drives and solar-powered pumping.
  5. Consider buildings, and heating and cooling: On-farm building assets, processing technologies, and heating and cooling equipment can be energy-intensive, driving up farm costs.
  6. Benefit from precision agriculture: New technologies that calculate the optimal quantity, timing and location of farming inputs such as water and fertiliser can greatly reduce energy use.
  7. Consider emerging technologies: Digital solutions such as sensors, robots and autonomous vehicles are already helping farmers generate energy savings.
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