May 15, 2024

Australian Utility Company Launches Solar-Powered Microgrid to Enhance Agricultural Operations in NSW Riverina

AFS, an Australian farming firm is adopting renewable energy microgrids to eliminate carbon emissions from its almond operations in New South Wales. This shift is supported by AGL, an Australian utility company that installed a solar-powered microgrid enabling the commercial orchard to transition from diesel to renewable energy sources.

AGL Energy Collaborates With Australian Farming Services for Microgrid

AGL Energy, a leading power generator company announced a strategic partnership with Australian Farming Services (AFS) to initiate three microgrid projects aimed at enhancing sustainability in agricultural enterprises across Riverina, New South Wales (NSW).

The initial phase of this collaboration includes the construction of the first on-site microgrid at Cadell, which features a five-hectare solar farm and a 4.17 MWh battery. This phase which has been recently completed includes a 4.8 MW solar array to charge the battery system, with 7 kilometers of underground power lines, inverters, controller systems and grid stability units. Due to its remote location, the 1,690ha Cadell Orchard is not connected to the main grid, with irrigation from electric pumps powered solely by diesel generators.

Along with the Cadell microgrid, AGL is working on a 6.5 MW solar array and a 5.1 MWh battery energy storage system at the nearby Canally Almond Orchard. The energy company is also planning a third microgrid for installation at AFS’s Murray Downs Processing Plant. All the farms and processing facilities are dedicated to almond production. 

The Microgrid Solar Storage Will Cut Diesel Usage and Carbon Emissions

Australia's AGL Energy stated that the microgrid will scale down the use of diesel-powered generators at Australian Farming Services (AFS) Cadell Orchards. The collaboration signifies a significant step towards reducing carbon footprints and embracing renewable energy solutions in the region.

Ordinarily, the farms rely on diesel-powered generators for irrigation systems. Switching to on-site solar power and battery storage could reduce diesel dependence by 85%, significantly lowering the orchards' Scope 1 carbon dioxide emissions from operations. This innovative initiative marks a shift towards clean energy practices, with the potential to revolutionize energy consumption in agricultural operations.

“As one of the region's major employers, these renewable energy projects offer our businesses increased energy price stability and improved energy reliability, allowing us to concentrate on producing Australian-grown almonds,” said AFS chief executive officer David Armstrong.

The setup will deliver 5.2 GWh of renewable energy to the farm, diminishing the horticultural operation's dependence on diesel-powered generators and reducing the orchard's carbon emissions by potentially 4,700 tons annually.

Australia's farming sector has risen to a distant second with close to 145,000 metric tonnes of crop production, but the United States is still by far the world's largest producer of almonds.

Over 18% of global yearly greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the land use, forestry, and agriculture sectors, as reported by Climate Watch. Almost 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are produced by the energy industry.

According to 2021 statistics, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency in the United States projects that the industrial sector emits 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, the electric power sector produces nearly 25%, and the agricultural sector produces around 10%.

AGL to Manage Microgrid in Long-Term Power Deal

In a strategic move to bolster its energy infrastructure, AGL announced plans to assume ownership and operational responsibilities of the microgrid. This decision was part of a long-term power purchase agreement to solidify the company's commitment to sustainable energy solutions. AGL will ensure seamless integration of the microgrid into the broader energy network by overseeing its day-to-day management.

With sustainability at the forefront of global energy agendas, AGL's initiative to own and operate the microgrid marks a significant stride towards a greener future. The company's proactive approach sets a precedent for others in the industry, emphasizing the importance of investing in renewable energy infrastructure for long-term environmental and economic benefits. These projects are part of a broader effort to promote sustainability and efficiency in almond production, a core focus of the involved farms and processing facilities.

The construction of the three microgrids which began with a microgrid system at almond farm Cadell Orchards in 2022 are all expected to be completed and operational in 2024. This ambitious timeline reflects the dedication of both AGL Energy and Australian Farming Services’ focus towards fostering a greener and more sustainable future for agricultural enterprises in Riverina, NSW.

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