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Drought-proofing a farm with AgriSolar

Sheep and grain growers Rodney and Michael Breust are set to drought-proof their farm through the generation of solar power on their ‘Longview’ property at Sebastopol, south of Temora NSW.

The project will provide them with an assured income stream without affecting their current farming practices, while also supporting the production of renewable energy.

“The whole farm is 2300 acres, and we usually run 850 crossbred ewes breeding fat lambs, with 1600 acres of cropping,” Michael said.

“The company turned up at the door one day and asked if we’d be interested in leasing them some land for a solar farm. We were certainly interested, and quickly sorted out details like how much land they would need and for how long.

“They were initially looking at a slightly bigger panel area, but after considering various restrictions and how much electricity they could put into the grid we settled on 700 acres.”

FRV Services Australia’s Head of Project Development Tarek Alsampaile confirmed the property is ideally suited for solar electricity production.

“The solar panels are mounted about 1.5 metres above ground on a horizontal, single-axis tracking system which changes the orientation of the solar panels throughout the day to follow the sun from sunrise to sunset,” Tarek said.

“This maximises the energy captured by the panels. The tracking system will be mounted on steel frames supported by driven piles that have minimal disturbance to the land.”

Tarek explained the term ‘AgriSolar’ is commonly used to show the symbiotic relationship between both electricity generation and traditional farming.

“This structure allows sheep to continue to graze in and around the panels, providing a dual use of the land and further sustains the local agricultural sector.”

Farmers Rodney and Michael described this aspect of the project as a “major bonus”.

“FRV want us to keep the area grazed to reduce the fire risk so we keep full grazing rights to the area,” Michael said.

“A vermin proof fence is going around the whole paddock to keep foxes and roos out – they don’t want them digging around the panels’ cables and doing damage. It’ll make a good lambing paddock!”

The recent drought had heavily affected their sheep and cropping operation, however the solar farm will effectively drought-proof their business.

“We’ve been pretty dry here for the last 9-10 years,” Michael said.

“We haven’t had to cut back our overall stock numbers, but have had to send off our lambs earlier than we normally would and to keep more of the grain to feed the stock - selling less grain has reduced our income. The stock have been making us money, but the crops haven’t.”

Rodney added “We’ve got a 30-year deal for the project so that’ll well and truly see me through.”

FRV acquired this project in March 2020, and expects to be generating electricity by late 2021.

The 248-hectare (700 acres) area will feed 90-megawatts of electricity into the grid - enough to provide 40,000 average homes with clean, renewable energy