World's largest macadamia processor switches to solar power
The world's largest macadamia processor has turned to solar power in a bid to lower energy costs, lift profitability, and reduce its environmental footprint.
The Macadamia Processing Company (MPC) has installed a 600-kilowatt solar electricity system on the roof of its factory at Alphadale, near Lismore in northern New South Wales.
The 100 per cent grower-owned cooperative has invested close to $1 million in the solar system, which has been registered with the Federal Government's Clean Energy Regulator as a power station.
MPC's general manager Steven Lee said they expected a full payback for the project in less than three years.
"The equipment's got an effective operating life in excess of 20 years, so we're looking forward to making savings for the life of that project and some pretty significant reduction in energy consumption," he said.
"We're generating a peak of around 400 to 450 kilowatts, depending on how bright the day is and where the sun is.
Mr Lee said their new solar system generated around 25 per cent of the plant's total electricity demand.
"Unfortunately, we can't get solar energy during the evening — otherwise it would be great."
"It's pretty close to supplying all of our energy use during the day, so yes if we've got a nice bright sunny day then we're almost operating free of charge — thanks to the sun," he said.
Processor investigates other renewable energy options
With a busy macadamia harvest underway, and nut coming in from suppliers across the Northern Rivers and southern Queensland, the factory operates 24 hours a day, six days a week.
"Given we're consuming all the electricity we generate there's really no incentive to look at battery storage at the moment," Mr Lee said.
"But if we were able to come up with other ways to generate electricity then storage would certainly be something that would be of interest."
While MPC may never run its factories on 100 per cent solar energy it was looking at other technologies to lessen its environmental impact and save money.
"There's potentially microturbine technology, so by burning waste shell we could generate thermal energy that could potentially be converted to electricity by that technology," Mr Lee said.
"But that's something that's just being investigated at the moment."
Contract Management for Australian Horticulture industry