Solar panels help power Tasmanian Irrigation

A Tasmanian Irrigation initiative will see the first use of solar energy to help power some of the pumps associated with the company’s schemes.

A Tasmanian Irrigation initiative will see the first use of solar energy to help power some of the pumps associated with the company’s schemes.

Tasmanian Irrigation Pty Ltd is a State-owned company established in 2008. It drives the planning and construction of irrigation infrastructure through public/private partnerships. It manages 18 irrigation schemes, with ten new schemes planned and 134,000 megalitres of water entitlements.

Pumping water is an energy-intensive and subsequently expensive activity. But a  new renewable energy initiative seeks to slash these costs – the $2.5 million Energy on Farms Solar Project.

Announced late last year, the initiative will install solar panels at up to 13 Tasmanian Irrigation pump station sites around the state. The project will provide more economical water for irrigation schemes where these solar arrays are installed.

How much irrigators might save will vary annually, given seasonal fluctuations and the different capacities of systems used across the sites. They range between 25kW – 100kW. Tasmanian Irrigation Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kneebone says farmers may save up to $5 per megalitre on average.

“This is great news for Tasmanian farmers and another example of Tasmanian Irrigation’s commitment to delivering high-surety irrigation water as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible,” said Kneebone.

Construction of the systems is expected to kick off in December this year and be completed by December 2023.

While a first for Tasmania, there have been many examples of utilities and agencies using solar power to support irrigation and general water pumping across the mainland. A recent instance was more than 30,000 solar panels installed at a pumping station near Murray Bridge in South Australia.

Solar Power In Tasmanian Irrigation

It’s always great to hear about significant solar energy projects in Tasmania. But as the irrigation project will demonstrate, PV does and will continue to have a role to play in the state.

When considering renewables in Tasmania, hydropower is probably the first technology that springs to mind. Last year, hydro accounted for 84.5% of Tasmania’s electricity generation, followed by wind power at 7.1%.

Solar power is still a bit player, accounting for just 0.8% of generation and consumption last year. This contribution was primarily from small-scale PV systems below 100kW capacity on the rooftops of homes and businesses. According to the Clean Energy Regulator, more than 45,937 small-scale systems were installed by the end of July this year.

The national solar rebate is lower in Tasmania and the system output is less compared to mainland states and territories. However, installing solar panels is still worth it in Tasmania. One of the big pluses is while systems may be pricier, they are more likely to be of very good quality given the state’s thorough inspection regime. Solar cowboys don’t last long on the Apple Isle. Many haven’t even bothered to try and get a toehold there.

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