AGL is partnering with Cadell Orchards to power irrigation at its Sunraysia almond orchard with renewable energy from a microgrid powered by a five-hectare solar farm and battery to be built on-site.

The new microgrid will provide 5.2GWh of renewable energy to the site, reducing Cadell Orchard’s reliance on diesel generators and slashing the orchard’s scope 1 CO2 emissions by up to 4,700 tonnes each year, the equivalent of taking more than 1,500 cars off the road.1

AGL Chief Customer Officer Jo Egan said the company was helping Cadell Orchards harness solar energy to lower its emissions and to create a more sustainable farming operation.

“With enough renewable energy to power a small town,2 this new solar farm is the size of two MCGs and will help Cadell Orchards cut thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions each year”, Ms Egan said.

“AGL has been working with Cadell Orchards to model energy usage and design an integrated and innovative renewable energy system to lower their energy costs and meet the orchard’s future needs.

“This is AGL’s second major microgrid announcement this year and a great example of how AGL is partnering with agribusinesses to help them reduce their carbon emissions and lower their energy costs.

“AGL is committed to renewable energy and it’s through partnerships like this that we’re delivering on a low-carbon future with our customers and communities as we transition towards net-zero.”

The system includes a 4.9MW tracking solar farm to be built on-site, a 5.4MWh battery system, 7km of new underground powerlines, an inverter, grid stability unit and microgrid controller and communications.

Australian Farming Services manages Cadell Orchards, and its CEO David Armstrong said the new microgrid was another example of the company’s industry-leading approach to technology and farm management.

“We manage more than 4,400 hectares and nearly 1.5 million trees in some of Australia’s most productive horticultural regions,” Mr Armstrong said.

“Working with AGL, we’ll be able to generate clean and renewable solar power which will cut our emissions, reduce our reliance on diesel fuel by 85 percent and deliver up to 40 percent energy cost savings each year.

“Our orchard will also benefit from energy price certainty and better energy resilience and reliability.”

Cadell Orchards is a 1,690-hectare almond orchard planted during 2017/18 and the trees are due to reach maturity during the 2023/24 season. The orchard is not connected to the energy grid owing to its location and is irrigated with electric pumps that are currently powered by diesel generators.

AGL will build, own, and operate the solar-powered microgrid under a long-term power purchase agreement, which will provide most of Cadell’s electricity needs and reduce reliance on diesel fuel.

Installation of the new microgrid is due to start in April 2023 and is expected to provide electricity by October 2023.

AGL is a leader in commercial solar with 215MW of decentralised assets under orchestration and more than 140MW of commercial solar assets under monitoring and management.

1 Passenger vehicle fuel consumption in 2020 and emission reduction of 3.1 tonnes per car per annum (ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, 2020), FFC emission factors from NGA Factors October 2020.

2 Estimated to power around 962 average Australian households, based on Australian average residential customer electricity usage of 5.4MWh per annum (AEC residential electricity use and customer numbers per state for FY2019 (Electricity Gas Australia 2020)).