Huge solar power system to milk cows

GERALD PIDDOCK
Last updated 10:31 17/12/2013
Putaruru farmer Hugh Chisholm and his son, Simon, are having solar panels installed on theirr milking shed.
PETER DRURY/Fairfax Media

SUNNY SIDE UP: Putaruru farmer Hugh Chisholm and his son, Simon, are having solar panels installed on theirr milking shed.

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Hugh and Sue Chisholm are turning to solar power to help run a more sustainable dairy business.

The Putaruru farmers are installing one of the country's largest solar powered systems ever to be used on a dairy farm on their dairy shed near Putaruru.

The 28kW photovoltaic (PV) system has 112 solar panels on the roof of the Chisholm's 64-bale rotary shed as well as two Fronius IG 150 V3 inverters.

Chisholm said the capital cost of the system was a smart investment, and part of an improvement plan for their farm.

The farm was still connected to the power grid, but he was excited to be able to supplement his energy use by generating clean electricity.

"Solar energy is free so it makes sense to utilise it."

One of the drivers behind the decision to install the solar system was their desire to leave the farm in an improved state.

"Without sounding arrogant, my cowshed's pretty special. There's not many around that have got what I have got and when I depart from here, I'd like to think I've left it in better order than when I have found it."

It was also important for Chisholm to have an atheistically pleasing shed and he is happy with the result.

"When you see it on the roof now, you think 'holy **** that looks good."

The PV system is being installed by energy efficiency company Right House after the Chisholms approached them at this year's Fieldays.

Tired of ever increasing power costs, the Chisholm's wanted to take control of their electricity and future proof themselves against overhead.

The Chisholm's power bill is substantial at around $50,000 and the solar system will save the Chisholms an estimated $7555 annually, with a return on investment of 12.8 per cent.

The Chisholms bought the system at a Fieldays for just under $60,000.

While no ''greenie'' he believed he had an responsibility to enhance his farm environment.

"I believe we have an obligation to do things better and from a farming point of view, we have to do that. Everybody does, in my opinion."

Right House sales director Francis File said interest in solar panelling from dairy farmers had increased significantly over the past 18 months.

"The price of solar panels in New Zealand has become more affordable, but farmers are also historically early adopters of technology and tend to think long term.

"Farms like Hugh and Sue's are large electricity users, so investing in a solar power system makes economic sense."

File said the returns on a solar powered system would only get better with power prices likely to increase in the future.

The first step carried out in installing the system was to analyse the Chisholms' power usage in order to estimate the size of the PV system required.

A detailed plan was then presented, outlining the proposed layout for the panels and accompanying inverters.

File said they try to right size the system by matching any installed solar system to the projected power usage of the business.

This ensured the farmer would receive the best return on their investment.

"If it's right sized for your usage pattern, then the return on your investment is going to be better."

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Once the power usage is analysed, the average solar yield and economic optimisation can then by substantiated.

Solar energy had made huge leaps.

"Just as you have seen the evolution of LCD to LED and other technologies evolving at an incredible pace, you're seeing the yield performance of solar increase."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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