$30million Study For Solar Farms To Protect Fruit Orchards


A new solar study conducted in the heart of the Goulburn Valley, could potentially revolutionise the horticultural industry by embracing solar technologies.

In a $30 million funded experiment, the Tatura Smart Farm will use solar PV arrays to to protect pear, apple, stonefruit and almond orchards from extreme weather events and reduce orchard energy costs.

Key points:

  • $30 million government-backed study to examine how solar panels could be used to protect fruit orchards and reduce energy consumption within the industry.
  • The Horticulture Solar Energy program will take place at Tatura Smart Farm in the Goulburn Valley.
  • Want to learn more about solar? Download our FREE solar guide.

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The Solar Farm Study

Tatura SmartFarm and Mildura SmartFarm are government-funded research facilities that study the impact of crop yield, product value and production efficiency using solar farms.

Funded by the Andrews Labour Government under the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, the aim of the study is to protect the orchard from the sun while generating enough solar power to sustainably run its cool rooms.

“We pick our fruit and then we have to pull it down to zero degrees immediately,” says Matthew Rachele. “This refrigeration takes a lot of energy, it’s the most energy-intensive part of our operations.”

Solar Farm Controversysolar home

The study also aims to debunk the ongoing myth that solar panels create environmental heat banks by raising surrounding temperatures by 3-4 degrees Celsius.

A published report outlining these concerns appeared in the science journal Nature four years ago and has since sparked controversy among many horticultural farmers about solar PV’s impact on crops.

Farmers in the Goulburn valley also picked up this story during 2017 and expressed concern over the solar panel farms in the area acting as “heat sinks” and spoiling their crops.

Other Goulburn Valley fruit farmers, however, have completely embraced the benefits of solar from the get-go.

Central park Orchards and Mountain Valley Produce Centre, have installed two 100kw solar PV systems across the complex, cutting their grid power consumption by one-third and its annual electricity bill by $62,000 a year.

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Curious About Installing Solar?

Solar isn’t just for those growing crops, the benefits of solar power can be harvested by everyone (pun intended).

If you are just starting out in your solar journey we have an excellent downloadable solar guide completely free for your perusal.

Serious about saving on your energy bills in 2020? Solar Market offers three completely free quotes from local CEC accredited solar installers so that you can kick start your renewable journey without the hassle of dodgy salesmen and companies. Happy Installing!

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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