Two Queensland farms were recognised in the Inaugural Best Energy Efficiency Project award at the National Energy Efficiency Awards in November 2020.
The farms both demonstrated an integrated approach to energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption through projects aimed at improving water use efficiency through more targeted irrigation.
These projects highlighted energy–water–nexus opportunities where greater efficiencies were achieved by designing systems to optimise both energy and water consumption.
Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG) won the inaugural award for their work with the Cayley family to reduce the energy consumption of the irrigation system on their cane farm. The projects have resulted in a 42 per cent reduction in energy per tonne of sugarcane harvested.
The project was based on a comprehensive energy productivity audit. The aim of the audit was to quantify irrigation energy utilisation and irrigation application inefficiencies to identify options to reduce energy use and enhance farm resilience to variable climatic conditions.
The project saw the replacement of over 500m of 100mm diameter irrigation pipe with 200mm pipe to reduce distribution friction losses, combined with extensive weather and soil type analysis to determine optimal irrigation scheduling.
Three high pressure systems were replaced with a single low pressure lateral move irrigator to irrigate approximately 37ha with 5.79ha continuing to be irrigated with furrow. The project means a single pump can be used where two or more pumps were used previously.
This project has been able to demonstrate pragmatic utilisation of existing technologies combining agronomy, soil hydrology, irrigation practices and Clean Energy Finance Corporation finance products to provide on ground energy productivity outcomes.
Websters Group received a Highly Commended by the judges. The energy efficiency consultants have been working with a citrus orchard near Mundubbera for three years on a detailed efficiency project consisting of:
- multiple soil moisture probes and a weather station to assist in automating irrigation scheduling supplying water only when needed for the various soil types
- Using metering to develop and then monitor against energy and water use benchmarks
- Efficiency checks of all pumps in the 30kW – 250kW range using ultrasonic flow meters
- Upgrades of pumps including a 250kW pump and installation of a 75kW booster pump
- Ensuring main NMIs use less than 100,000 kWh per year so they can still be considered small users and avoid demand and kVA charging where possible.
Websters and the farm have been monitoring application efficiency of ML/Ha of water applied before and after the introduction of soil moisture probes and developed benchmarks in kWh/ML/m head for irrigation. Monitoring over a period of time allows the farm to understand how it’s energy and water consumption changes over time and under various conditions.
The efficiency has averaged around 10 – 20 per cent below the industry good practice of 5 kWh/ML/m head.
The project has led to energy savings 10.5 per cent with cost savings around $104,000 per annum or around 19 per cent.
Websters advise that rather than focussing on installing high-tech equipment on site, the project has identified suitable technology and worked with the farm to assist in utilisation. This is evidenced by the farm’s irrigation manager accessing the system on line regularly to monitor the irrigation system in real time.
QFF sponsored the Inaugural award for the Best Agricultural Energy Efficiency Project in the National Energy Efficiency Awards to highlight the extensive work on farms across the country to become more energy efficient.
See QFF’s energy efficiency and renewable energy case studies from the audits at the energy savers case studies web page.