Saturday, 27 July 2013

New way for farmers to make money
10 Jun 2013

There is a new way for farmers to make money these days that will actually benefit our environment.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) estimates that around 140,000kWh of solar power falls on the roof of a typical farm shed each year. Most of this simply heats up a piece of tin and adds minimal value while milking sheds and arable land operations (which use dryers and pumps) consume large amounts of costly power.

Why not capture even some of that energy for domestic use and sell it back to the grid when it is not needed? In Australia, there are over 1,000,000 grid-tied solar customers, who make electricity for their own use and sell the excess back to the grid. This clever idea is starting to catch on in New Zealand-with renewable energy generation leaders Meridian Energy providing the technology and Westpac pitching in to finance farmers putting in solar panels.

If this initiative catches on (and why wouldn't it?) the agricultural sector will save thousands of dollars from their energy bill, we will reduce our needs to generate electricity through fossil fuels and energy security will be improved.

It is great to see Meridian Energy initiating something that will improve the environmental performance of farmers, who are constantly criticised by the urban population for the cumulative effect their industry has on waterways and greenhouse emissions.

One can only hope that when farmers save money through solar generation that they might invest it into fencing and riparian planting rather than the latest model 4WD. But seriously, if you park the complicated and hotly contested environmental arguments about climate change and power generation for just one minute-free energy from the sun makes simple economic sense.

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