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Robotic Dairy cuts costs by $50,000 a year


Kay Smith, Myall River Pastrol Company, NSW

Kay became a farmer quite suddenly and late in life. She had just retired as a teacher when her husband became ill and unable to continue with the work on their dairy. She took over the running of their 770 hectare farm, just outside Bulahdelah in the NSW Hunter region. 

A $100,000 quote to supply high voltage power to a pole in a paddock, eventually led them to the decision to go solar for their robotic dairy. This would make them the first off-grid robotic dairy in Australia. Robotic dairies use approximately double the energy costs over traditional dairies as they operate 24 hours per day. Hence, the power bill for the robotic dairy was expected to be around $50,000 per annum.

The off-grid renewables solution for approximately 250 cows, looks like this;

  • Capital cost of $190,000 including solar and batteries.

  • A Generator is used for back up and can run the dairy and recharge the batteries at the same time. The system can recharge in approximately 1.5 hours.

  • On days of zero solar energy production, they expect the battery storage will last seven hours.

200% increase in sales for Carbon Neutral Winery 

Alisdair Tulloch, Keith Tulloch Wines, Hunter Valley NSW

Alisdair, a fifth generation wine maker from the Hunter Valley has witnessed how the family's vineyard has been responding to changes in climate his entire life. Grapes are sensitive to changes in the climate, and the increasing heat is putting strains on the Tulloch's vineyard and the suitability of the grapes they grow. Electricity was also one of their largest expenses, costing the business $30,000 a year. 

The family put in place a 10 year plan to reduce their emissions and became the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley to be carbon neutral.

Solar panels now provide 72% of their power, saving them $25,000 annually. It also reduces CO2 emissions by 100 tonnes a year.

The Tulloch family;

  • Installed 65kW of solar PV at a cost of $10,000 and a pay back of 3.95 years.

  • Use electricity now instead of LPG to power forklifts and charge batteries during the day.

  • Installed an energy efficiency refrigeration system and program it to use it during the day.

One huge benefit has been that having a carbon neutral product to sell, has increased sales by 200%.

Pigs, Poo and Passion saving $15,000 a month

Jarad Smith, Kia Ora Piggery, Victoria

Jarad's 2,000 sow (25,000 pigs in total) piggery in Victoria now runs mainly on bioenergy, produced by harvesting the gas from pig effluent. It's been a steep learning curve for Jarad and hasn't been without its teething problems.


Jarad's dad was the original brains behind the system, using old Ford Falcon motor's as the generators. The piggery is able to capture 20,000 tonnes of methane a year from the 6,000 tonnes of effluent and generate 3,800 MWs of electricity.

The process; 

• Piggery effluent pumped into Covered Anaerobic Ponds (CAPs)

• Gas captured under CAP covers

• Gas treated/scrubbed and pumped to engines

• Engines running on gas power alternators

• Alternators produce electricity to use on site & export

• Hot water from engines & exhausts captured for heating

The piggery;

  • Saves $15,000 a month by using bioenergy instead of electricity from the grid.

  • Reduces odour issues which helps keep the neighbours happy.

Diversifying farm income by hosting wind turbines

Charlie Prell, sheep farmer, Crookwell NSW

Charlie's sheep farm has been through the many ups and downs that living on the land can bring. His business was suffering when the opportunity arose to host some wind turbines on his land under the Crookwell 2 wind farm. The income gained through hosting turbines on his land, has helped to turn around Charlie's farming business and provide a buffer him for the tough years ahead. 

He is a strong public supporter of the benefits wind farms can bring to small regional communities and is a passionate advocate for an inclusive “benefit sharing” model for wind farm developments, where the whole community benefits. 

Small solar farm returns 16% to sheep grazier in Dubbo

Tom Warren, sheep farmer, Dubbo NSW

Tom has seen many benefits from leasing part of his property to solar farm developer Neoen. He says he has been able to get a substantial return form the rent of the land as a secondary income to wool production from his merino sheep. Even in the drought, the solar panels concentrated dew in the mornings, which then fed grass growing below the panels for his sheep to graze on. This was handy during one of the worst droughts for NSW on record.

Grazing his sheep in the Neoen solar farm, has the double benefit of also keeping the weeds down and cutting costs for Neoen to manage the land.

Tom also build a 100kW solar farm on his property that feeds into the grid, and it is providing a staggering 16% return on his investment. 

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