Like many farmers, Wilco Droppert and Sandra Jefford are concerned about their production costs, while also trying to do their bit for the environment.
“We have 10 different electricity meters measuring usage across the farm – and all of our bills were high,” explained Wilco.
Using an energy assessment grant, Wilco and Sandra hired an energy auditor, who tested pumps and bores and took readings across the property to help them find energy savings.
With the audit report in front of them, Wilco and Sandra could see that two bore pumps, the river pump and a diesel pump at the dam were consuming more than 70% of the farm’s electricity and 60% of the farm’s diesel.
The audit showed that one bore pump in particular was poorly suited to the job and using too much energy. They upgraded the bore pump and motor, and increased the size of the pipeline to the bore, reducing energy use by 38%.
“Before the audit, we had no idea the bore had an inefficient pump,” Wilco told us. “Swapping to a more energy-efficient pump is saving around $8000 year in energy costs."
The audit report was like a blueprint to achieve big energy savings.
“We knew we were not running the dairy as efficiently as we could,” said Sandra. “The audit report helped us understand what steps to take to make the business more productive.”
The farm already had 29kW of solar, installed in 2017. Excess solar was being fed to the grid, but could be better used on the farm.
Some of that surplus solar energy is now used to pump effluent water to an irrigator, replacing a diesel pump. In the future, some of that solar energy will be used to chill water to help with milk cooling.
“After the audit process, we decided to invest in more farm-generated, renewable energy. We’re still working on this, but eventually we will use renewable energy across more of the farm and run our irrigation systems during the day, instead of waiting for night to take advantage of off-peak electricity.
“Automating the irrigation system is also part of the plan, so we can spend less time driving to pumps and pivots, freeing up more time for other jobs.
“We will also upgrade an irrigation pipeline and are looking into changing nozzles on the pivots to better distribute water on the pasture, to grow more feed for the cattle.”
Wilco and Sandra invested $50,000 in the new pump and irrigation pipeline, but expect to see a return on investment in 4.3 years.
“Investing in energy efficiency pays off down the track,” they explained. “In the meantime, we are using less electricity, less diesel and less petrol, not to mention saving at least 150 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
“Learning about our greenhouse gas emissions from using electricity and diesel gave us the impetus to move towards generating most of the power that we need. We’re now looking at other ways to minimise our carbon footprint and maybe becoming carbon neutral in the future.
“We’d recommend that all farmers with big energy bills have an energy audit.”