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Sun slashes dairy bills

WHEN the sun shines on Katandra West – and it often does – Gayle and Laurie Clark kick their machinery into gear.

The Legendairy farmers from near Shepparton in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley have installed a 30 kilowatt solar system on their dairy shed roof that allows them to run power hungry appliances free of charge.

“We only get an eight cent tariff for feeding back into the grid, which is a poor return, so we try to use as much sunshine power as we can,” Gayle said.

“During the day when it’s sunny, I will operate the roller mill and in the summertime we use the power from the system to operate the recycled water pump.”

Using solar energy to run irrigation pumps closes the loop on a system that uses water and energy extremely efficiently.

Paddocks are flood irrigated, with run-off feeding into recycled water dams. That water is then pumped – using solar energy where possible – back onto paddocks, rather than re-entering the local river system.

Effluent from the dairy is utilised in a similar fashion, with the nutrient-rich liquid pumped back onto paddocks to grow more grass for the cows.

“We use everything that we can,” Gayle said.

The solar electricity system has slashed power bills by a third, from $6000 a quarter to $4000 every three months.

While it was an expensive system to install, it has been paid-off in just three years, rather than the six to seven years that the Clarkes had initially estimated. 

With a lifespan of 25-30 years for the 117 panel system, the initial outlay is looking like an increasingly good investment. 

“We could see the price rises coming, so when an interest free offer came along we took it. It took three years to pay it off and I’d certainly do it again,” Gayle said.

For farmers like Gayle and Laurie, being responsible custodians of the land goes hand-in-hand with running a good farm business.

Gayle said that almost every farm in the region now has recycled water systems in place, ensuring that a valuable commodity is kept on farm and no waste is sent back into local waterways.

“I’m not sure our city counterparts realise how connected and how appreciative we are of our environment,” she said.

“We are trying our very, very best to look after our environment”

For Gayle, installing solar panels to help power the farm is part of a philosophy of making the most of technology and innovation. 

“As I heard at a recent farmers’ conference, ‘some people say why, but other people say why not?’” 

Australia’s Legendairy farmers are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for current and future generations: www.sustainabledairyoz.com.au

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