Sector: Agriculture

Address: Moira Shire

Environmental Upgrade: 99.9kW solar system

Energy savings: $18,323 per year, $458,077 over the life of the project

Sustainability: 130 tonnes of CO2 per year, 3,259 tonnes over the life of the project

 

Problem

Agriculture is an energy-hungry business. From industrial processing facilities to temperature-controlled storage, food production can be a drain on the grid – and the electricity budget.

Such was the case for farmer Tom Baker on the Mornington Peninsula. Wrangling crops of mixed agriculture, grain harvests, hay production and sheep rearing, he needs plenty of power to keep his operations ticking over. Especially when it comes to looking after his crops; summer brings high irrigation and water pumping costs, with Tom budgeting $30,000 a year in fuel to keep the system running.

But this summer, he decided it was time for a change.

 

Solution

For Tom, there was no way to reduce his business’ power usage to save money. The only solution was to transition to renewable energy and install a solar system.

“We got in as early as we could,” he said. “The sooner you can get it set up, the sooner you can save.”

Environmental Upgrade Agreements (EUA) can be used to finance a broad range of upgrades, from solar panels and battery storage to end-of-trip facilities and electric vehicle chargers. Moira Shire Council Mayor, Cr Libro Mustica, sees the potential in funding projects that improve energy, water and waste efficiency and increase the accessibility of renewable energy in the region.

“EUAs enable businesses to expand and provide employment opportunities in our local communities,” he said.

 

Process

Initially, Tom was prepared to finance his solar system by taking out a bank loan. But the installers he chose to work with suggested he see what Sustainable Australia Fund could offer him.

Through Environmental Upgrade Finance, businesses own their new, energy-efficient assets from day one, and the property itself provides the security. Funding is provided by responsible lenders from the private sector, and councils secure the loan by placing a charge against the property.

In the case of solar energy, the money saved on electricity bills consistently covers the costs of the repayments, allowing the business to be cashflow positive, even while taking on a loan.

“Your finance suited me better than a traditional bank because it’s not tied to me or the business,” Tom said. “I’m still in the early stages of setting my business up, and I want to float as much money as I can.”

 

Outcome

His finance enabled by Moira Shire Council, Tom was able to install solar panels and make the switch to renewable energy.

With plans to expand his operations, he chose to install a 99.9kW solar system on his property. It now takes care of all power he needs during daylight hours, as well as some water pumping that happens during the night, saving Tom $18,323 per year, or $458,077 over the life of the project.

“The set up cost us around $100,000, but it’s worth the $18,000 annual saving in the long-run,” he said. “If you’ve got room for the panels, it’s definitely worth investing in, especially when the rebates and finance are relatively cheap.”

Thanks to the size of the solar system, Tom is set to make another big saving – this time in the carbon emissions involved in running the business. He’s set to reduce his emissions by 130 tonnes per year – the equivalent of 23 homes’ electricity use for one year – and 3,259 tonnes over the life of the project – the equivalent of taking 700 cars off the road.

Tom Baker Agricultural Services

“If you’ve got room for the panels, it’s definitely worth investing in, especially when the rebates and finance are relatively cheap.”

– Tom Baker, Owner

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