Solar irrigation trial field day

Solar irrigation field trial Bundaberg
The trial site at Sharon where solar power is being trialed in a bid to reduce electricity costs associated with on-farm irrigation.

Solar jobs could soar in the Bundaberg region on the back of a project designed to deliver a hybrid solar/grid power-supply project.

The three-year “Adapting Renewable Energy Project” which started in February 2017 is being funded by the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and administered by the Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG).

To explain the fundamentals of the project, its outcomes to date and the potential cost savings to the agricultural sector, a field day has been organised for Wednesday, May 15 at Sharon.

“Tailored technologies to reduce pumping costs for irrigating farmers are desperately needed, whether the crop be sugarcane, cotton, wheat, canola or small crops,” said BRIG spokesman Dale Holliss.

Mr Holliss, who is manager of Bundaberg Canegrowers, is deputy chair of the National Irrigators Council and a member of the Energy Consumers Australia Board advisory committee.

$446,000 grant for three-year trial

“BRIG received $446,000 from ARENA to facilitate a trial which involved the monitored introduction of solar options on a typical winch irrigated sugarcane farm over three years.”

He said the project is already showing extraordinary results – a reduction in irrigator electricity costs by 73 per cent.

“Our trial is exploring the manner in which solar can be integrated with traditional farming methods and the appropriate changes required in farm management to achieve optimum results,” Mr Holliss said.

“The project has, during the trials to date, quite literally reduced the pumping cost from $116 per megalitre to $23.14. That’s a massive cost saving.”

The project has potential to support jobs growth in regional areas.

In January 2018, with the project under way, research and advisory business Green Energy Markets reported that jobs created by combined solar projects such as the ARENA / BRIG model had topped 10,000 nationally.

In addition, it said, the Solar Citizens report had predicted a further 1500 ongoing full-time jobs if all planned renewable projects went ahead.

Mr Holliss said the expansion of solar within the farming sector would support other areas of business in regional areas of Australia.

Jobs growth aligned with solar roll-out

Green Energy Markets has identified areas of solar jobs growth including positions for installers, photovoltaic (PV) design engineers, solar project developers, and workers who could pile solar posts, erect tracking systems and install solar panels.

“The field day on May 15 will showcase suppliers and business enterprises involved in resourcing and servicing this initiative,” Mr Holliss said.

“Due to the crippling costs of electricity we have already seen local farmers turn to solar options to mitigate these costs which are impacting the viability of primary producers and those reliant on irrigated crops.

“This field day will explain to a wider audience the outcomes of our trials to date and the means by which anyone can become involved in farming practices that are less reliant on traditional energy requirements.”

The field day is free to all participants although bookings are essential. The event will run from 11am until 2pm and courtesy transport is available from the Brothers Sports Club.

Barbecue lunch is provided and a lucky participant prize valued at $500 is on offer.

To find out more about the event and to book go to