Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School, in partnership with Tamworth-based Agrivoltaic start-up, Wynergy, is going solar, thanks to a $180,000 grant from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI).
Awarded as part of NSW DPI’s Energy Efficiency Solutions Project, the grant is the first building block in an innovative solar project that will save Farrer Farm nearly $75,000 in energy costs per year and improve agricultural outcomes.
According to Wynergy founder, Ben Wynn, the start-up company’s “stock-proof” solar solution maximises solar energy production while cohabiting with, and enhancing, fertile grazing and farming land.
“Installed on a raised platform, our uniquely-designed solar trackers allow continued use of the land underneath to grow forage and provide shelter for livestock,” explains Wynn, who adds, “The agricultural and energy outcomes are actually improved, with the resulting micro-climate providing increased soil moisture and forage growth, and improved solar energy generation.”
By installing three Wynergy solar trackers, which will support a 60-kilowatt solar system, Farrer Farm will replace four diesel irrigation pumps with electric pumps energised from the new agrivoltaic solar system, a shift that is not just about cost saving, according to Farrer Farm Manager Andrew Eather.
“The amount of money we will save each year is considerable, but there will also be valuable educational outcomes for our students,” says Eather. “The agricultural industry can benefit immensely from agrivoltaics and this project will certainly educate students about the synergies between agriculture and renewables in a changing climate, both now and into the future.”
In addition to gaining a greater understanding of the future of agriculture and renewables, students will also conduct ongoing research projects measuring changes in soil moisture and land productivity as a result of the agrivoltaic installation. And they will monitor how livestock interact with the infrastructure as a result of increased shading, particularly in summer months.
The NSW DPI grant puts Farrer and Wynergy on track, and they’re calling on Farrer Alumni, local businesses and industry to help reach the required funding of $400,000. The fundraising campaign will be featured on the ‘My Regional Community’ website, to be launched closer to Christmas.
Wynergy’s technology is suitable for small-to-medium sized agribusinesses looking to slash their energy costs and exposure to fossil fuel prices.
The system on Farrer Farm will be undertaken by Wynergy’s commercial division, which builds onsite solar generation assets for agribusiness and regional commercial operators.