Broiler farmer turns to solar power for cost-effective electricity
A broiler chicken farm in western Victoria has become the latest to use solar power to go completely off-grid.
The idea was born after two years of drought and poor harvests.
Owner and broad acre farmer Craig Henderson said it was about making it financially possible to keep his family farming into the future.
"We built the chicken sheds to even out the income after the last two years to give us a continuity of cash flow and to give us strength to maintain constant growth," he said.
"Hopefully over the next 20 years the broiler sheds will give the constant cash flow to expand."
The property outside Warracknabeal is 15 kilometres away from the nearest power source.
It was going to cost Mr Henderson more than $1 million to connect to the grid. Instead, he opted for solar panels with 100 kilowatts of battery storage.
So far he's installed two sheds at just over $250,000 and has plans to expand to 300 kilowatts of power as he builds more sheds.
Each shed houses 44,000 chickens and the temperature needs to be fully controlled for optimum growing conditions.
Mr Henderson said he was starting slowly because the project was essentially an experiment.
"Because no one else has done it we need to run a year and see where our weaknesses are," he said.
Mr Henderson believes his broiler farm is the first to go completely off-grid but says it will become more common in the future as the cost of power goes up.
"Short-term it's not as good as being on the grid but long-term it will be far better," he said.
As well as being completely off-grid, Mr Henderson boasts of his fully integrated and sustainable chicken farming operation.
"What we have is our sustainable energy, free-range broiler chickens and when we clean the sheds out we've got the litter to spread the litter on our paddocks," he said.
"Hopefully, in the long term it'll give us some good results on our cropping program."