Bevan and Kylee Young own Sandbar Citrus, a brand which includes three orchards and a packing shed at Gayndah in the North Burnett region.
Staged upgrades to power supplies and pumps over the years have helped reduce electricity expenses.
The couple added their third solar energy system in October 2018 and upgraded their pumping system (from a centrifugal to a submersible pump) at Greenvale Orchard. This investment included a stand-alone 36 kilowatt solar system, with the entire upgrade costing $100,000.
“The benefit is that (a submersible) pump is half the size but I’ve been able to pump the same volume of water,” Bevan said.
“We reduced electricity use by changing the pump and putting the solar on, it basically took out 90 per cent of my costs for that pump with electricity.”
Bevan had estimated it would pay for itself in seven years. This calculation included the current grid feed-in tariff of 9 cents a kilowatt hour.
The biggest initial saving was in September 2019 compared to the same month in 2018, electricity costs decreased 127 per cent to -$424.84. While the difference in cost between December 2017 and 2018 was 55 per cent with the bill down to $1408.91.
The Youngs first invested in solar about 11 years ago with a 5kw system on their packing shed.
A second investment, at the cost of $35,000, was installed on the packing shed in May 2018 to reduce costs. It was a 36kw system. Before solar, the December 2017 electricity cost was $6130.05. This reduced to -$162.01 in December 2018. The cost dropped 79 per cent from March 2018 to March 2019. But the Youngs increased production by 6200 bins during 2019. This increase in production increased electricity costs, but the rise wasn’t as steep due to solar.
“The solar we have got on the packing shed doesn’t cover all the power we use in a day, but it will take 50 per cent of it,” Bevan said.
“Obviously, the days we are not packing it is connected back into the grid and we are getting a bit of return.”