Dairy Farm Makes The Switch To Solar Power

Lakeside Dairy in California is now sourcing three-quarters of the farm’s milking operations’ energy needs with clean electricity, after installing a large solar power system.
 
The 891-kilowatt solar array, designed and installed by SPG Solar, consists of 3,240 Suntech solar panels and is around 594 times the capacity of the average entry-level home solar power system in Australia.
 
The system covers 4 acres and has been estimated to produce an annual output of 1.7 megawatt hours of solar electricity
 
The farm owner, Mike Monteiro, says the installation will help the dairy buffer against rising electricity prices and hedge against input costs in a market where milk prices have shown recent volatility. The system also represents another milestone in the farm’s efforts towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable production.
 
Lakeside Dairy is currently milking 145 cows and also grows various grains and potato. The farm has developed a system that utilises the manure produced by its livestock and that of nearby poultry farms as fertiliser for its cropping activities. 
 
The solar power system was financed by Rabobank, which developed a loan based on the farm’s lower electricity bills and government solar rebates and incentives; with the aim the system maintaining a positive cash flow throughout the life of the loan. With the life of solar panels spanning decades, the system will provide even more savings for the farm once the finance has been repaid.
 
Farmers are increasingly turning to solar power as not just a way to save on electricity costs, but as a revenue generation tool; through solar feed in tariff programs that pay a system owner for the electricity they produce and export to the mains grid. Sun farming doesn’t have the labour intensive nature and ongoing overheads of traditional farming and can be easily integrated into a farm’s current activities.
 
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Commercial solar power in Australia