A commercial dairy farm in south-western Victoria has slashed its use of grid electricity by up to 95 per cent, boosting energy reliability and slashing costs with a mix of rooftop solar and Australian lithium battery technology, made in New South Wales.
Fourth-generation diary farmers John and Rochelle Pekin made the call to shift to on-site renewables after it became clear their Nikep Dairy Farm would struggle to remain profitible while exposed to soaring grid power prices.
Being at the fringe of the Victorian grid, power reliability had also been a problem for the energy intensive, 950-cow dairy farm, which up until now has depended on a mix of grid electricity and diesel to power its operations for milking, cooling, and effluent management.
To address these concerns, agribusiness solar and storage integrator, Farming the Sky (Commpower Industrial), installed a 250kW rooftop solar system and 520kWh Renaissance superRack battery, to store the excess solar.
Farming the Sky has estimated that the new solar and battery system will reduce the Nikep Dairy Farm’s reliance on grid electricity by up to 95 percent, and decrease its energy and fuel bills by a whopping $70,000 a year.
In a nice twist to the story, the battery system is one of the first to be commercially installed by Energy Renaissance, a start-up that is putting the finishing touches on Australia’s first giga-scale battery manufacturing facility in the NSW Hunter Region.
The impressive, solar-powered facility will mass produce semi-solid state lithium-ion batteries, which Energy Renaissance describes as “super tough” hot climate batteries that will suit commercial energy storage and use in heavy transport.
The company’s vision, headed up by founder and development director Brian Craighead, is to bring battery manufacturing to Australia and become a key player in the decarbonisation of the nation’s energy and transport sectors.
When RenewEconomy last spoke to Craighead in May of this year, Energy Renassiance was still importing battery cells for its batteries, but had built up a chain of local suppliers to provide almost all of the other parts – making the batteries around 92% Australian made.
The timing of the venture – Craighead describes Energy Renaissance as a “seven-year overnight success – couldn’t be better with Covid, global and local energy crises, and the global battery component supply crunch all serving to light a fire under demand for energy storage.
“We are delighted that Nikep Dairy Farm has chosen to install our Australian superRack batteries,” said Craighead in a statement this week.
“Working with CSIRO, we spent years perfecting our batteries for challenging environments like this, and it’s fantastic to see all that effort translate into lower costs, lower emissions and a more sustainable operation.”
Nick d’Avoine, general manager of Farming the Sky gives some credit to the Victorian government, too, which supported the solar and battery install through its Business Recovery Energy Efficiency Fund, co-funded by the Agriculture Victoria Agriculture Energy Investment Plan.
“The Victorian government is leading the way with the On-Farm Action Plan program that grants farmers to invest in technologies to reduce their carbon emissions, including renewable energy,” D’Avoine said.
“This will allow dairy farmers like Nikep’s to deliver a more economically and environmentally sustainable milk supply with a reduced carbon footprint.”
For the Pekins, the solar and battery storage system is all about sustainability – sustainability of the business, both logistically and economically, and sustainability of the environment.
“Dairy farming is highly energy-intensive and relying on grid electricity meant we were at the mercy of rising electricity costs that would impact our profitability,” the farmers said.
“Having batteries also provide us with energy security, knowing that we can continue to operate in the event of a grid outage. In addition, the batteries can keep our cows being milked twice daily.
“Investing in clean energy goes beyond economic considerations for us as dairy farmers. We want to inspire others to do something now because we’re making our farm more sustainable, which is better for the environment.”
The Nikep Dairy Farm is now tracking towards becoming carbon-neutral, unlocking new opportunities by selling carbon credits generated by the Farming the Sky solutions, and milk to processors who reward low carbon producers with better prices.
The dairy farm also received the Natural Resource and Sustainability Management Award from the Dairy Australia Great Southwest Dairy Awards.