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Australian farmers urged to improve their carbon credentials by switching to solar energy

Brett Langfield estimates the solar panels at his property at Young have cut 30 per cent off his electricity bill.(ABC Rural: Tim Fookes)

Image: Brett Langfield estimates the solar panels at his property at Young have cut 30 per cent off his electricity bill.(ABC Rural: Tim Fookes)

This story was originally publilshed by ABC News on 12 Nov 2020. Written by Tim Fookes for ABC Rural. 

As egg producer Brett Langfield watched his power bill continue to soar, he realised he needed to act — for his own sake and the planet's.

The NSW farmer invested in dozens of solar panels to provide 525 kilowatts of electricity to his operation near Young.

"Our energy bills were going up substantially, so in 2014 we decided that it was time to do something about it," he said.

"We've got ground panels powering our free-range and caged sites, where we house nearly a half a million chickens, while our feed mill and rearing sites are also powered by solar," he said.

"Having these panels on our farms has allowed us to save about 30 per cent on our power bill."

Mr Langfield said the decision by some egg producers to move to solar was an economic decision, but also the right thing to do environmentally.

"We as an industry are a very low-carbon-sourced industry, and this is another level of where we're trying to be more efficient and responsible," he said.

Australian Eggs, a not-for-profit organisation that works with producers on research and development, has encouraged producers to consider going down the solar path, to allow the industry to move to carbon neutrality.

Managing director Rowan McMonnies said 10 of the country's 12 largest egg producers had some form of solar energy powering their farms.

"Research tells us the community is interested in environmental issues and how agricultural industries are going to lower the carbon footprint," he said.

"We've developed a solar calculator to allow egg farmers to see how solar could work on their farm, and how much they could reduce their power bill.

"Egg farming uses a significant amount of electricity as air-conditioned sheds are required to ensure hens are safe, so producers who have installed solar panels are noticing the difference."

It's not just egg producers turning to solar in an attempt to reduce their power bills.

The NSW Government announced a $32 billion renewable energy fund over the next decade in an attempt to lower electricity costs for homes and businesses.

Agricultural industries are also encouraging some producers to install solar panels or lease land to solar farm developers.

"It's encouraging for both regional Australia and for landholders who'll have the opportunity to host solar panels on their properties," said Karin Stark, director of Farm Renewables Consulting.

"It can guarantee farmers who lease out their land to solar farm developers have a secondary income for the next 25 years.

"People can see that it's clean energy that will help provide cheaper electricity in the years ahead, while coal-fired power stations are earmarked to close."

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