|Feed Central managing director Tim Ford, AACo group manager for feedlots and wagyu Greg Gibbons, Infinity Solar Toowoomba manager John Harrison and Infinity Solar engineer Mark Delaney inspect Feed Central's solar panel site.|
IT'S an impressive sight - 960 solar panels producing enough energy to power 60 houses.
Feed Central at Charlton, on the Warrego Highway, was more than willing to show its facility to delegates of the recent Australian Lot Feeders Association conference, BeefWorks.
The hay and grain supplier's managing director Tim Ford said installing the solar panels was an important move towards diversification.
"One of our core aims was to get the block of land here at Charlton pay for itself, independent of the business," he said.
"Also, importantly, it is no labour, and no maintenance, it's a set and forget type of business venture."
Mr Ford said going solar came down to a simple numbers game.
"We made the decision to go into solar power because the numbers stacked up. We also wanted to do something new, different and positive for the environment."
When they first started looking into solar panels, AACo planned on only putting them on their outback stations.
But one of the major costs associated with feedlots is electricity, so setting up solar panels to supplement the feedlots' needs was the next logical choice.
AACo group manager for feedlots and Wagyu, Greg Gibbons, said the decision to install 19 solar setups was a "no brainer" for the company.
"It's about being eco smart and environmentally friendly," he said.
"In five years we'll own the facility and as I said, we hedge commodities, we hedge grain every day, so why not hedge your power?
"We'll certainly be looking to develop new strategies going forward - whether it be hybrid, solar, wind, or something else - we just can't rely on fossil fuels forever."
Mr Gibbons said they budgeted on the system supplying 20 percent of power. Depending on the day it could reach up to 30pc of their requirements.
Infinity Solar is the company behind these large-scale solar systems.
Toowoomba manager John Harrison said although he appreciated two or three-kilowatt systems on homes, they had decided to focus on improving farming sustainability.
"We are hunting a different beast altogether," he said.
"We are looking at facilities that use a lot of power that need a direct feed so we are king of hedging all along."
Mr Harrison said the desktop work that goes on prior to installation can take several months. Installation however, only takes a week.
"There's a lot of effort that goes into the design, development and all the applications and pre-build strategies.
"But when it comes down to doing it, if you've done your homework right and down it well then installation is pretty trouble free."