With the rising cost of electricity on the farm, one option for controlling costs is to generate your own supply.  This is the approach taken recently on the McFarland Bros dairy farm at Dungannon where they installed  a 20 kW photovoltaic system.

The panels were installed on the wagon roof of a cattle shed.  They face in a south westerly direction and the angle is very close to the ideal of between 300 and 400 to the horizontal.  Already they are producing electricity and this will increase greatly as the days lengthen.

The electricity is used on the farm where the herd of Fleckvieh cows are milked by robots.  The steady demand of the robotic milkers throughout the day matches well with the production of electricity by the PV system.  The greater the proportion of generated electricity that is used on the farm, the greater is the economic advantage of the PV installation.

The system, installed by Future Renewables of Ballinamallard, consists of high quality panels with a low degradation level, along with a 17 kW SMA inverter.  Systems such as this should pay for themselves in around 5 years.  With a life time of at least 20 years it represents a good investment on the farm.

Photovoltaic systems are only one of the renewable energy technologies that will be highlighted at the Practical On-farm Renewable Energy event at Enniskillen Campus on Wednesday 26 February.  This event is open to all farmers and rural dwellers and includes a trade display as well as seminars on a wide range of topics.  For more information contact Connor Maguire at [email protected].

By David Trimble, Renewable Energy Technologist, CAFRE