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

Cotton

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 show how cotton businesses are already lowering energy 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 QLD irrigator, including analysis on the farm's centre-pivot, river pump and grain-drying facilities.

CRDC has also developed fact sheets and a booklet to help you identify the main areas of energy consumption on your cotton farm and help you identify energy saving opportunities to reduce your electricity bills.

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.

Dairy

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.

The Australian Government has 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 in Dairy Information - Agriculture Victoria

Fruit

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 six 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

Orange - switching to energy-efficient lighting in packing shed

Young - automating fruit cool store doors

Queensland

Stanthorpe - changing power usage to manage electricity demand

South Australia

Inglewood - using solar panels on packing shed

Tasmania

reducing head pressure on fruit cool store refrigeration system

Victoria

Goulburn Valley - upgrading fruit cool store refrigeration systems

Goulburn and Yarra Valley - installing voltage power optimisation

 Swan Hill - using a variable speed drive on orchard irrigation motor

Western Australia

Manjimup - installing variable speed drives on evaporative fan motors

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.

Factsheets cover topics such as lighting in packing sheds, refrigeration in fruit cool stores, irrigation in orchards, grading in packing sheds and electricity tariffs.

Watts in Your Business presentation on audits provides an overview of the most effective energy-efficiency options for fruit businesses.

See the APAL website for more information on energy management for fruit businesses.

Irrigators

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.

Case studies are available on the website on topics such as pump efficiency, electricity tariffs, underground pipes, and irrigation efficiency. Videos featuring each case study are also available.

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
  • 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

Wineries

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 Incorporated (SAWIA) 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 Wine Energy Saver Toolkit containing information to help identify, prioritise and action energy-efficiency improvements for wine manufacturing.

More information

The NSW Farmers’ Association has developed an extensive suite of information to help farmers identify energy savings, adopt renewables and increase energy productivity. This is available at AgInnovators.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation case studies

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage case studies

Sustainability Victoria case studies

Victorian Energy Saver farms and business case studies and guides

Energy Savers for Qld farmers case studies and information

Agriculture Victoria’s free on-farm energy assessments program