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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
52 ON FARM Peter and Jane Waters together with son Adam run a Merino and crossbred flock near Coleraine in western Victoria and when faced with building a new shed, things came to a head. “The old shed was just simply not working anymore and I always wanted to have our shed and yards right here. It was going to cost $100,000 just to connect the power here so we looked at building it off the grid. With the latest solar powered set-up, it was to cost $45,000 so the decision was pretty easy in the end,” Peter says. With a new four-stand, U-shaped raised board with two wool presses operating using three-phase power, the challenge was there to see what could be delivered – and after two shearings, the Waters are more than happy with their decision. “It’s been able to do it without a sweat. We shear in January and again in March so the summer/early Autumn really helps but even without fully sunny days it could do it,” he adds. There are 40 photo-voltaic solar panels on the shed roof and each panel has a capacity of 300 watts in full sun, therefore the com- SOLAR POWERED SHEARING SHED WORKS A TREAT In an age of increasing power costs and pressure to move to renewable sources of energy, a farming couple from Victoria have taken the plunge and built a brand new woolshed and sheepyards entirely off the power grid. Designing and seeing it materialise was a dream come true for the couple. bined panels are capable of generating and delivering 12,000 watts or 12 KVAs. The low voltage electricity generated on the roof is turned into standardised 240-volt power by three inverters that have a combined capability of 15KVAs which are fed and stored in a series of Lithium batteries if not being used. With four Evo shearing machines and two wool presses operating, the entire shed uses about 8KVAs, and when the wool presses Jane and Peter Waters with their solar unit. Solar panels on the roof of Peter and Jane Waters’ new shearing shed near Coleraine in western Victoria. are not operating the power demand is about half this at 4000 watts. The use of LED lights, a microwave in the kitchen and a power supply in the yards are the other drains on power. With shearing starting at 7.30am it means that for a large part of the first run of shearing the solar panels are not operating. This has not been an issue as the batter- ies supply more than enough for the first run with the storage falling to about 75% at morning smoko before lifting back up to almost full by lunchtime. “Cloudy days in the winter might be a bit of an issue but I haven’t seen the battery below 50% and we do have a diesel generator as a backup if we really need it. It all kicks in automati- cally as things change through the day but we haven’t used the generator yet,” Peter says. The solar power was supplied by Keppel Prince from Portland, the shed itself was made by Thornton engineering originally from Penshurst but now also at Geelong, and the builder was Kevin Peters who built the 80m x 30m shed in six weeks from start to finish. “So it was really nice to have local compa- nies involved and both were just fantastic to deal with,” said Jane. With the shed set to last a century, the solar power is also a long-term investment. The battery itself is expected to last 15 years, the inverters 15-20 years and the solar panels are covered by a 25-year warranty. “By then there will be newer and better technology, but I am looking forward to no power bills from here,” Peter laughed. His advice for people looking at solar power for woolsheds: • It is very doable; he has become a solar convert. • It is getting cheaper all the time and technology is also improving. • Some minor issues arose early, the inverters needed to be bigger than first thought. MORE INFORMATION Listen to the Waters take you through their new solar-powered shed in an upcoming episode of AWI’s The Yarn podcast at www.wool.com/podcast.