Cane growers in the Burdekin can compare their energy usage with other local enterprises with the help of an on-line tool developed by the Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee Inc. (BBIFMAC). The project is a whole-of-farm irrigation energy use benchmarking study so irrigators can assess their farm’s energy efficiency status and investigate opportunities for efficiency gains helping them make informed decisions about energy efficiency.
BBIFMAC is a non-government, community owned agency that aims to assist in the management of natural resources in the Burdekin-Bowen floodplain to ensure social wellbeing, primary production and ecological sustainability.
Energy consumption and cost information has been collected from sugar cane producers in the Burdekin region since 2012 along with farm area, harvested area, cane production and sugar production for each farm.
This data has been included in a database of over 230 producers and analysed to provide metrics such as the cost and consumption of electricity per hectare or per tonne of harvested cane.
Funding was made available as part of the Energy Savers Plus Program to continue the project that BBIFMAC have been implementing since 2012, allowing the incorporation of 2015 and 2016 data.
Member farms can log into the online tool to compare their farm to others farms in the region on the above metrics.
Figure 1 below shows the electricity consumption per tonne of sugar for a farm identified by a red dot in comparison with other producers.
The tool allows farms to benchmark within water supply regions BHWSS (Burdekin-Haughton Water Supply Scheme) and Delta (Lower Burdekin Water Board), along with the various mill areas to provide a greater understanding of different areas and irrigation management.
Farmers can also view electricity consumption and electricity cost data for their farm over time, to give an understanding of seasonal changes in their energy requirements.
For example, Figure 2 shows electricity usage data for five separate pumps on one farm, with peak and off-peak usage in each billing quarter over a five-year period (financial years).
From this, a farmer can indicatively determine whether the current tariff is being used effectively (in terms of peak and off-peak electricity usage) or whether it is necessary to change either irrigation timing or tariffs to ensure more economical pumping.
The online tool allows a comparative review between farms to create discussion around irrigation and pumping efficiencies, irrigation timing, tariff review and other efficiency and cost considerations.
Several producers have been able to implement energy and cost saving initiatives which have been highlighted in a series of case studies and video case studies to raise awareness and allow farmers to take advantage of energy saving opportunities such as:
- iron oxide residue removal to bore pipework reducing pumping costs from $23.50/ML to $14.30/ML.
- reduction in valve throttling, reducing pumping costs from $15.78/ML when ½ open to $9.79/ML fully open for a 22kW pump.
- eliminating flow restrictions, such as repairing a collapsed section of underground pipe saving over $2,800 per year.
- tariff changes for more cost-effective utilisation of electricity, saving a grower up to $5,000 for six pumps.
- optimisation of irrigation systems to reduce the required irrigation time, cutting irrigation time by 54% and saving over $2,500 per year.
- using pump duty information to identify compare irrigation systems operating off the same pump, identifying that a lateral move irrigator is costing $52/ML and a travelling gun costing $75/ML.
This added knowledge encourages farmers to review their irrigation practices and investigate opportunities for energy savings by seeing where their farm is positioned compared to other similar operations.
Using the tools and information provided through BBIFMAC and the Energy Savers Program, farmers will be able to gauge the efficiency of their irrigation programs and make informed decisions on energy saving initiatives.
Arwen Rickert, Project Manager at BBIFMAC said that the project is extremely valuable as “we can see how the electricity consumption and costs of irrigating sugar cane in the Burdekin change over time in response to variables such as price changes from the supplier, climatic variability and changes in farmers’ irrigation practices.”
A case study will be developed for the Energy Savers website once the final data entry has been completed in July 2017.