Bundaberg cane farming family goes off grid to save money

A Queensland cane growing family has decided to install enough solar PV at its Bundaberg farm to quit the grid entirely, in a bid to beat soaring electricity prices.

The family is in the process of installing a ground-mounted solar power system that will take its 80 hectare farm completely off the grid of state government-owned electricity network Ergon Energy.

The Bundaberg News Mail reports the Griffin family has so far laid three long concrete strips in a cane field to provide the system’s foundations.

“This is a direct response to the soaring power prices which have been crippling farmers like us for years now,” said Kelvin Griffin, who runs the farm with his wife Helen and adult children.

“If we used Ergon’s power for irrigation, if we could afford it, we would be putting at least $40,000 to $50,000 a year into this power giant’s pocket.

“We won’t, and can’t, do that. But we can take our custom away completely and go off-grid.

“From now on, our power money goes to pay off our solar system, and make us independent of this government-run giant which obviously does not want to listen to farmers and ordinary families who simply cannot afford their huge electricity costs.”

The family says it has taken on a $100,000 debt to pay for the solar system.

“We sat down and discussed the future of the farm and whether it would be here for our kids,” said Jason Griffin, 33, who lives on the farm with wife Felicity and two daughters.

“We had to make a hard decision – $100,000 is a big debt to take on with the tough economic times – but we worked out we could have it paid off in six or seven years for around the same money as we are paying right now to Ergon, even without using our irrigation capabilities.

“By irrigating using solar, we also can increase our production back to the 7000 tonnes a year we used to get when we irrigated fully,” he said.

“We have to face facts that for around the price of buying a new 120-horsepower tractor, we can get our own solar and escape the ongoing pressures of government-run electricity.”

Top image: “Cut sugarcane” by Rufino Uribecaña de azúcar. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

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