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Solar Energy: Western Australia’s Farms of the Future

The 21st century has seen some major shifts in the way Australia approaches agriculture, but for every technological advancement, there are additional challenges in maintaining revenue streams by means of traditional, ‘old-fashioned’ farming. Each ground-breaking foray into the future risks leaving the ‘old ways’ behind and, in the midst of rapid climate change and global warming, crippling droughts and temperamental weather patterns, and the increasing urbanisation and metropolitanisation of society, farms housed in the dry and dusty plains of yesteryear are falling by the wayside. As water is becoming increasingly harder to come by; as cattle and produce are being imported rather than exported; and as we move away from agrarian society, farms are slowly inching toward the brink of extinction. Recent times, however, have seen farmers the world over turn to planting fields of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, as opposed to crops and seeds, to make ends meet and keep their farms, families and livelihoods afloat.

With so much farmland rendered agriculturally-barren by the harsh conditions of regional Western Australia, these isolated acres would serve as ideal locations for implementing a whole host of solar energy panels to soak up the sun’s rays and convert them into a steady supply of renewable energy, not to mention a stable source of income unaffected by weather or drought. A system such as this can effectively cut overheads in half, free from the labour-intense operation of day-to-day farming. It provides farmers with a significant return on their investment, considering the low levels of maintenance and upkeep involved, the substantial savings on electricity bills, and a limitless source of clean energy for years to come. Unlike traditional farming activities, a solar power farm is an environmentally-conscious and sustainable venture. As the average Australian household uses 18 kilowatt-hours (kW-h) of electricity per day, if a household’s usage is at that average and their solar setup generates 9 kW-h per day, they generate half of their yearly usage and can expect to recoup that in savings on power bills. Since the cost of electricity will likely continue to rise, this reduction can quickly become significant.

Thus, the biggest financial benefit of running a solar power farm comes in the form of Federal rebates. The precise amount of cash back from the government for installing a solar PV system is dependant on the amount of power it is expected to produce, and its location in Australia. Larger, higher-output power systems are going to be eligible for a bigger discount and open areas of Australia with lots of sun – such as farmland – are situated in a higher rebate threshold, as they are likely to produce more energy. The rebates in question are solar credits, and are nearly always calculated by the solar PV panel system discount on the purchase price of the system. This removes much of the complicated paperwork involved in claiming the credits.

It is clear now that harmful fossil fuels have taken a serious toll on this planet; people are acutely aware of the impact that they have had – and continue to have – on the environment; and leaders of the world are looking to viable, sustainable and clean alternative energy solutions. By embracing solar power, Australian farms can usher in a new era of sustainable living and environmental harmony, rising to the forefront of industry in the process, rather than languishing behind on its heels.