For cotton farmer Jon Elder, a fourth-generation farmer who owns and runs the property alongside his family, this signifies a huge step in the right direction for the future of cotton.
“Water is the most limiting factor of everything we do here, it really sets out the limit of what we can achieve here each year” Jon explained.
“Implementing this solar diesel hybrid system will become a very big step change for the cotton industry as it moves towards a more sustainable future.”
A stationary diesel engine that consumed up to 70 litres per hour (375,000 litres per year) will be replaced with an electric motor that will power a 500kW solar array.
A diesel generator will also be installed, and an automated control panel will seamlessly blend generator power with the available solar power enabling the pump to run at night or on overcast days.
Ben Lee, the Managing Director of ReAqua who has been overseeing the project since the first consultation says that this solar diesel hybrid pumping system is not only beneficial for the cotton industry, but for any large-scale irrigation industry.
“Our solar irrigation systems are all about reducing farmers’ energy costs which – for an irrigation farmer – is one of their highest input costs” Ben said.
The benefits for Jon with the installation of this hybrid pumping system will attract an annual income of LGC’s and a delivery payback of less than 5 years. But the most significant impact will be the reduction of diesel costs by 50% per year.
“Since we’ve been farming cotton here twenty years ago, we grow the same amount of cotton with 30% less water and we use 90% less pesticides.”
“This reduction in our diesel costs is the next big change for us and for all cotton farmers. Whilst this hybrid system may be the biggest in the country at the moment, the really exciting thing is that I don’t think we’ll hold that record for very long.”