Farms are major users of energy. Pumps, tractors, cool storage, harvesting, maintaining crops and livestock facilities all require large amounts of energy.
While wages, exchange rates and commodity prices are set by external factors, direct actions by farmers can help reduce energy expenses as a proportion of the overall farm budget.
Opportunities exist for Australian farmers to better control their energy costs by:
- improving practices and systems
- changing or modifying equipment
- switching to alternative, less expensive energy sources
- purchasing energy more strategically
Energy is one of the fastest growing costs for cotton growers, with electricity and diesel accounting for up to 50% of grower’s total input costs. By becoming more energy efficient growers can improve their profitability.
The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has developed energy efficiency information for cotton growing businesses so that they can identify and implement energy efficient farming practices and reduce operating costs.
The following case studies and resources show how cotton businesses are lowering energy use and costs.
Goondiwindi – Pump evaluation Provides information on testing individual pumping set-ups to identify the optimum operating point to achieve maximum efficiency.
Baan Baa – Diesel to gas conversion Demonstrates how a Baan Baa cotton farmer is reducing his energy costs by converting his diesel engines pumping irrigation water from diesel to a mix of diesel and gas.
Comet – Integrating alternative energy solutions A study into the energy use of a Queensland irrigator, including analysis on the farm's centre-pivot, river pump and grain-drying facilities.
Factsheets cover topics such as energy assessment and management, reducing farm energy costs, energy use in cotton, pumping efficiency, pumps in the Australian cotton industry, pump cavitation, monitoring tractor fuel use, tractor setup and energy use in cotton picking.
See the CRDC Cotton Info website for more information on energy management in the cotton industry.
Energy costs account for a significant proportion of dairy farm overheads, in particular these include milk cooling, milk harvesting and hot water production. Focusing on ways to reduce energy consumption in these areas can provide the greatest gain for improving energy efficiency and saving money.
Applications are now open for grants to help dairy farming businesses lower their energy bills and reduce emissions through the Energy Efficient Communities Program. Guidelines for the dairy round are available at business.gov.au.
The Australian Government has also funded the development of energy efficiency information through Dairy Australia for over 1400 dairy farms. Many of the farmers who have had energy efficiency assessments at the dairy are already reaping financial benefits.
The Dairy Australia resource includes a range of fact sheets on topics such as saving energy on dairy farms, renewable energy, irrigation, building with energy efficiency and recycling.
For example, the Saving energy on dairy farms – resource booklet provides information on energy efficiency improvements that are low cost and have short payback periods, which can be implemented in most dairies across Australia.
Energy use in Australian orchards accounts for a large proportion of production costs and is a major financial burden for fruit businesses. For these businesses, energy is their second largest cost after labour.
The Australian Government funded energy audits for 30 fruit orchards and packing sheds in 10 Australian growing regions and the development of energy-efficiency information. The audits showed that, on average, fruit businesses could save $16,300 per year by making cost effective upgrades with a payback period of 6 years or less.
Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) has developed a range of case studies to illustrate how fruit businesses have saved money by becoming more energy efficient, including:
New South Wales
Batlow - installing a power factor correction unit (PDF 398KB)
Orange - switching to energy-efficient lighting in packing shed (PDF 1.3MB)
Young - automating fruit cool store doors (PDF 264KB)
Stanthorpe - changing power usage to manage electricity demand (PDF 818KB)
Inglewood - using solar panels on packing shed (PDF 384KB)
Goulburn Valley - upgrading fruit cool store refrigeration systems (PDF 266KB)
Goulburn and Yarra Valley - installing voltage power optimisation (PDF 265KB)
Swan Hill - using a variable speed drive on orchard irrigation motor (PDF 443KB)
Manjimup - installing variable speed drives on evaporative fan motors (PDF 1MB)
APAL has also developed a collection of informative energy efficiency material, including factsheets and a presentation, to help you cut energy use and save money in all areas of your business.
Irrigators need to become more energy efficient in order to reduce their operating costs. Improved irrigation efficiency can increase grower returns through reduced irrigation costs and also, potentially, higher yields.
Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee Inc. (BBIFMAC) has developed the Energy Efficiency Gains for Australian Irrigators (EEGAI) website. This website provides a range of energy information to empower irrigators and community organisations to make informed decisions about energy efficiency.
The EEGAI website contains a range of other resources for Australian irrigators, including:
- factsheets on energy efficiency gains for Australian irrigators, irrigation energy saving ideas, electricity bills and meter readings, irrigation tariff options and information, and improving irrigation efficiency
- a tariff calculator for irrigators
- an Engagement Manual
- videos on the case studies, workshops, and topics such as energy savings opportunities and solar options for irrigators
- slides from presentations on topics such as retail tariffs, updates on electricity prices for irrigators, energy in pumping, water and energy assessment tools, improving surface irrigation to reduce costs, automation, clean and clever energy, pump audits, bore maintenance, solar and irrigation opportunities
Refrigeration and tank storage account for 50–70% of energy consumption in a winery. By reducing energy use in refrigeration and other high usage areas wineries can greatly improve energy efficiency and save money.
The Australian Government has funded the development of energy efficiency information for over 300 wineries. This information helps wineries assess the benefits of energy efficient improvements in their operations. Many Australian wineries are already saving money by looking at ways to reduce their energy use.
The South Australian Wine Industry Association Inc. (SAWIAI) has developed case studies on how wineries have improved their energy efficiency, as well as a variety of resources to help wineries save energy, including a Winery Energy Saver Toolkit containing information to help identify, prioritise and action energy efficiency improvements for wine manufacturing.
Business Energy Advice Program Australian Government - Free one-one-one consultations with a business expert, providing tailored advice on how to cut energy costs for small businesses in the agriculture industry.
Energy Savers Qld Farmer's Federation - Free independent electricity audits to assist agricultural businesses identify energy savings and productivity improvements with rebates for farmers to implement audit recommendations.
On-Farm Energy Assessments Government of Victoria - Free assessments to analyse on-farm energy use (electricity, gas and diesel) and identify opportunities to make energy savings, improve output volumes per energy unit, and convert to renewable energy sources.
Case studies AgInnovators
FarmHub National Farmers Federation
Energy management NSW Government
Case studies Sustainability Victoria
Farms and business - case studies and guides Government of Victoria