Bendigo manufacturers turn to solar amid escalating energy prices

SOLAR SURGE: Processors are turning to solar in response to spiraling electricity costs.
SOLAR SURGE: Processors are turning to solar in response to spiraling electricity costs.

A number of processors in the region are turning to renewable energy amid spiraling electricity prices and  political uncertainty surrounding the national energy market.

Moira Mac's Poultry has begun a large installation of around 1400 solar panels at its processing facility in East Bendigo, while chicken processor Hazeldene’s has a number of solar projects afoot. 

It’s understood another large processor in the wider region has plans for a mammoth solar installation, but details of that project remain confidential at this stage.

Moira Mac's financial controller Marc Smith said the panels would provide a 400 kilowatt solar system, powering about 15 per cent of the company’s operations.

The move was in direct response to a projected two and a half times increase on the energy-use component of their energy bill from January 1, 2018.

“You've got to look at energy efficiencies because the costs are just too high,” he said.

As Mr Smith explained, because the price of electricity is increasing dramatically, the payback on solar projects is a lot shorter due to the savings generated.

Moira Mac’s has entered into a payback agreement with its landlord, who has purchased the panels, he said.

The project, expected to be completed by Christmas, is considered to be one of the largest installations in the region.

Hazeldene’s managing director John Hazeldene said after a successful solar trial at one of the company’s Lockwood-based farms, its solar panels were expanding, with more than 1000 solar panels producing 350 megawatt hour each year. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group president Chris Weir said it was encouraging to see large organisations in the region turning to renewable energy. 

The BSG was talking to manufacturers about partnering to do large-scale solar panel rooftop projects.

“There’s genuine concern about the rapidly increasing (energy) prices and concern about the increase in demand management fees being applied (by energy companies),” he said.

The Bendigo Advertiser earlier this year reported processors concerns with energy price hikes as they began negotiating their upcoming 12-month contracts.

Hazeldene’s reported a 39 per cent increase in gas prices in their 2016-17 financial year, but a more modest rise of five per cent for its electricity prices. 

Similarly, Vic Feeds, a stock feed manufacturer in Colbinabbin, was quoted double its current peak energy rates by a number of larger providers during contract negotiations.