The dairy farming industry remains to be one of Australia’s most important industries with a farmgate value (market value of an agriculture product minus selling cost) of $AUD 3.7 billion in 2016 – 2017.
But troubled times are afoot as statistics published by Dairy Australia, showed that Australia’s milk production declined by almost 6.9% (670 million litres) and profitability was at a three-year low.
These factors coupled with low milk prices and the high cost of procuring energy to power their farms, has put many Australian dairy farmers under tremendous financial pressure – some to the brink of quitting. In fact, a recent Agri Insights report published by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia revealed that 92% of Australia’s dairy farmers cite cost of energy as their biggest challenge and 91% of dairy farmers feel that they do not have control over their energy cost.
For these farmers, making the switch to solar power provides a much-needed cost-cutting measure that will shore up their bottom line. And thanks to cutting edge developments in solar power technologies led by pioneering companies such as FloatPac, dairy farmers can now also reap the cost-saving benefits of floating solar power.
Lower reliance on fossil fuel for greater output
For dairy farmers, electricity is required for milking machinery, milk cooling and storage, and on farm milk processing procedures. These activities put the cost of energy at approximately $170million per annum in 2017.
Yet there is no grand delusion amongst dairy farmers that farms can be powered only by solar power. As a supplementary power source, solar power has proven to be an effective way to cut costs with studies showing dairy farmers can potentially save up to 33% on their electricity bill through shifting to solar power.
In an effort to move from reliance on electricity generated from fossil fuels, floating solar power specifically, saves costs thanks to a greater energy output between 11% to 21%, resulting from lower cell temperature, cooled by the water they are placed on.
Lower maintenance equals lower costs
According to an article published by the Clean Energy Council, the issue of rising electricity cost in Australia can be attributed to the closure of old and inefficient coal power plants leading to a reduction in supply.
Then there is the lack of a national energy policy beyond 2020, which also contributes to rising costs, as businesses do not have the certainty to invest in new infrastructure to replace old power plants.
These factors combined inevitably means higher refurbishment and maintenance costs which are ultimately passed on to consumers.
For dairy farmers looking to save on electricity costs, floating solar power is an innovative solution. Apart from being ‘self-cleaning’, their location on bodies of water – which are often under utilised and therefore inexpensive – means that these solar panels can stay clean longer thanks to the lack of dust and dirt, reducing the frequency of cleaning sessions.
But as the wallet rejoices, so too does the environment. An estimate by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) revealed that up to 20,000 litres of water per MW can be reclaimed each routine cleaning session.
Eliminates competition for land
Simply put, solar farms occupy large swaths of land – land that might otherwise be essential for grazing.
Typically for a land-based solar installation, approximately 100 square feet of land is needed to accommodate 1kW of solar panels or approximately 100,000 square feet (2.5 acres) for a 1mW solar farm. However, after taking into account other solar equipment, the space occupied by a 1mW solar farm comes closer to 4 acres.
At current market prices, an acre of grazing land in the dairy county of Guyra in northern NSW, their higher than average rainfall can fetch up to $4,000, while areas with less rainfall claim up to $1,000 per acre.
Floating solar power reduces, if not eliminates, the scarcity and competition for land that drives prices up, allowing dairy farmers to keep up with Australia’s emerging trend for large farm operations of more than 1,000 dairy cattle.
But the benefits of floating solar power also feeds back into tackling the scarcity of electricity. When placed on hydropower dams or reservoirs, the solar panels prevent water from evaporating which in turn maximises the output of hydropower dams.
The cost-saving opportunities of floating solar power is further amplified by FloatPac’s unique Australian-designed floatovoltaic system. Not only is it 100% recyclable, UV-stabilised, and rot and mould-resistant but packs density in all forms from air and land to sea transport, further reducing cost and carbon footprint.
FloatPac Solar’s Australian designed floatovoltaic system focuses on decreasing the impact on the environment by containing algae bloom, enhancing water security, reducing carbon emissions, all while using 100% recyclable cells and increasing energy generation efficiency.
Gavin Hodgins, FloatPac CEO