Riverina Fresh discusses its switch to solar energy


Riverina Fresh’s factory in Wagga Wagga is changing over to solar energy in 2024, and joining some of the company’s partner farms in their quest for sustainable solutions.

The rising cost of electricity has many Australian businesses considering other options to curb the costs but keep the lights on. For Australian dairy and food services company Riverina Fresh, the decision to install solar energy was an economical and environmental consideration that compliments the factory’s focus on lowering its overall energy consumption.

Riverina Fresh Engineering Manager John English oversees capital projects at the Wagga Wagga factory in New South Wales, including the recent installation of solar panels on the roof of the company’s head office.

“One of our core values [at Riverina Fresh] is impact, and that refers to our impact both today and into the future,” John says, alluding to the company’s commitment to renewable energy.

The factory completed its installation of 1300 square metres of solar panels contributing almost 300 kilowatts of power, which John says is a good amount to help the factory start its switch to renewable energy. The project is one of the larger private solar installations in the Riverina.

“There is potential to add to it in the years to come,” he says. “For now though, in particular, the cool rooms lend themselves to solar energy, especially during hot sunny days.”

With the solar switch having started in late 2023, John projects the factory will save approximately 10 per cent of power consumption per year moving forward.

“It will really help us reduce our carbon footprint and lessen the impact of recent fluctuations in electricity prices,” he says.

The Wagga Wagga factory became the first within the company to install solar panels, with similar changes being considered at other locations in the Riverina Fresh network.

Riverina Fresh has 19 dairy farming partners who it works closely with every day to ensure the milk is of the highest quality.

This includes working with the local farmers on sustainability as well as innovation in renewable energy opportunities.

Ellie Haines, alongside her brother Sam Singleton and their partners, are one
of a number of Riverina Fresh farmers who have also made the move to
renewable energy.
The family-owned dairy farm in the New South Wales town of Blighty joined forces with Riverina Fresh in July 2021, and has installed 100 kilowatts of solar panels across its dairy shed and select rooftops across the property.

It has also become the first farm in the Riverina Fresh network to incorporate a hybrid model of batteries and solar energy.

“We’d been looking at solar system for a while now,” Ellie says. “It just made sense for us to go ahead and make the change, and we’re in an ideal location to set it up so others can see it, so that it could hopefully have a positive influence on other farmers in the region.”

Approximately 750 cows on the family farm are milked twice a day year-round. As such, Ellie says power is an important part of making sure the farm’s daily operations run smoothly.

The batteries, installed alongside the solar panels, provide a further 128 kilowatts of storage, which is crucial for the milking that takes place before dawn as it provides light in the sheds.

“There’s going to be a further push for sustainability in the future, so we thought we’d get ahead of it while we could,” says Ellie.

Ellie says her family has been pleased with the transition to a hybrid power system, which has helped reduce energy costs without compromising on productivity.

“We have had a 60 per cent decrease in power usage on our bills,” she says. “We’ve been very happy with how things have gone so far, and the service we’ve had with the solar company has been fantastic.”

For Ellie and her family, partnering with a company like Riverina Fresh that shares similar values has led to a great relationship from both a sustainability and business perspective.

“We are very happy to be involved in the fresh milk market,” Ellie says. “We love to know that our milk is going to good use in coffees.”

For more information, visit www.riverinafresh.com.au

This article appears in the February 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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