Words by Karin Stark
A plethora of renewable energy technologies vies for on-farm investment in Australia. But among farmers, a lack of awareness in available options, their potential application, and even trust in suppliers creates considerable barriers to on-farm uptake.
Seeing the opportunity for farmers to share stories, not just with one another but with those working in the space, I convened the inaugural National Renewables in Agriculture Conference in 2019 in Wagga Wagga. This formed part of my AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award project. The Conference attracted 250 attendees in its first year with the second Conference in 2021, drawing 350 attendees – an impressive increase in times of COVID-19. Topics at the conference ranged from electric utes, bioenergy at a piggery, solar irrigation, hydrogen and battery storage potential in agriculture, to hosting large scale renewable energy farms, and the benefits this can have for landholders and communities alike.
Our mixed cotton and wheat farm near Narromine hosts a hybrid 500kW solar-diesel irrigation system, which is helping reduce our diesel costs by 45%. The 1,550 panels take up one hectare of land. Large scale solar and wind farms will play a big part of the Central-West Orana’s Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), the country’s first planned modern day power plant – just a stone’s throw from our backyard.
Over the past several months, through my role at RE-Alliance (formerly the Australian Wind Alliance), I’ve been meeting with other farmers and community members to learn about what opportunities they want to see come out of REZs.