If you are a agricultural or dairy farming business in New Zealand then reducing operating costs goes hand in hand with reducing your carbon footprint. There is no other way that is quicker and better to shoot two birds with the one stone than to go with solar power.
Farmers tend to be wary of their investments because they are concerned about the associated increase in their workload; however, solar power systems are almost maintenance-free. A wipe-down a year with an electrical inspection every two to three years allows farmers to focus on more important parts of their business.
Rooftops represent 'solar real-estate': your empty shed roofs are doing nothing more than protecting your areas from rain, which is their purpose, but they can do so much more for you! Flat roofs, tilted roofs, all sorts of variations of roofs can still the perfect spots to install solar panels. If it's a flat roof, solar panels can be tilted north towards the sun, or if you have an east/west/north-facing roof, the solar panels can be installed flat on the roof.
There is also the option of installing a ground-mounted structure that can be custom built and positioned at the optimal angle and orientation to harness the sun's power. You and your team can design the height of them to be so that livestock can freely move under and around the solar panels without causing any harm to either the animals or the solar panels.
The most common system sizes that farmers in New Zealand opt for vary between 20kW and 40kW. A larger solar power system may require an investment of $40,000+ but the return on these systems normally start at around 10% ROI (return on investment). The more solar power you consume directly, the higher the ROI. Since standard warranties cover a period of 25 years, you can expect a lifetime of free electricity generated.
The variables that determine your choice of system size are:
- Number of panels you can fit on your roof/roofs (solar real-estate)
- The portion of electricity bill you would like to eliminate (1/4th, 1/3rd, half)
- Amount of carbon emissions you want to reduce
- Your budget
Another method to arrive at a desirable system size is to see how much power you will use as it is produced. You don't need to rely on your electricity retailer for the buy-back rates that they give you. Using power directly is a smart way to make good use of the solar power system you install. If you know the amount of power that you claim between 9am and 5pm, you can match it to a system size that will produce no more and no less than that same amount of power.
Example of a Farm Going Solar
A farmer on Matakana Island has installed a 40kW, ground mount solar power system on his farm to reduce his electricity costs of running refrigeration for chilling milk, heating water, and operating pumps.