A New Zealand-based start-up offering dairy farmers cheap and reliable solar and battery-backed power purchase contracts has raised $4 million from an Australian-led investment round.
Based in Christchurch, Solagri installs solar and batteries on dairy farms in the Canterbury region of New Zealand at no up-front cost, instead signing the farmers up to long-term PPAs guaranteed to supply 100% of their dairy sheds’ electricity needs.
As the company’s website explains it, Solagri installs a solar array at its own cost on roughly 0.25 hectares that is leased from the land owner or farmer. The property remains grid connected and is powered by a combination of solar and grid power.
Solagri uses the purchasing power of its growing customers base to push down the cost of the power from the grid, while also reducing farmers’ exposure to unexpected high energy prices caused by market shocks.
A battery energy storage system can be added to the solar array at a later stage, to improve the efficiency of the solar and save the farmer more money. There is also the option to install a DC fast charger at no cost, if and when the farmer is ready to get an electric vehicle.
The trans-Tasman venture – Solagri is chaired by Luke McDonald, the CEO of Brisbane-based Renewable Energy Partners, which led the recent capital raise – is supported by a team of renewable energy professionals from both NZ and Australia.
The company says its overarching “mission” is to build a centre of excellence for the rollout of solar and storage technology on New Zealand’s rural grid – it intends to be New Zealand’s “most innovative rural energy business” – before expanding ‘across the ditch’ and beyond.
Peter Saunders, Solagri’s CEO said the $4 million investment from Australia was a show of confidence in these goals, and would underwrite the rollout of another 20 systems on dairy farms, in line with growing demand the company says it is seeing.
At this state, the company has a demonstration solar and battery plant already operating on a dairy farm in the Canterbury region, which has proved successful.
“We are excited to partner with a key investor who shares our passion to work with the dairy industry in New Zealand to provide our farmers with reliable, affordable green energy”, said Renewable Energy Partners’ McDonald.
“Solagri’s medium term plan is to expand in other agricultural sectors in New Zealand before looking at opportunities in Asia and Australia,” he added.