Solar energy might be a saviour for some South Australian Riverland fruit growers who abandoned their crops and land during severe drought late last decade.
A test site with 800 solar panels on the roof of an old storage depot at Renmark has been set up by Yates Electrical Services director Mark Yates to show what might be possible.
“We’d like to get 12 months of full data, that way we can draw a really clear picture and be really transparent to show people what the costs are and what the returns are.”
ABC News reports Mr Yates said the owners of vacant fruit blocks might be able to generate a profit from the abandoned land, which he said would be preferable to letting big investors set up large-scale solar operations and take any profits elsewhere.
“Traditional methods of generating income are always going to be there, but I suppose this is just a way we can introduce a completely new market to the area.”
Roly Telfer, who has a now-empty 22-hectare block at Cooltong, said a renewable energy venture seemed a worthwhile idea.
“It would certainly be an excellent idea for growers who have spare land to generate some cash flow,” he said.
Mr Telfer is keen to see the weeds on his block replaced with something productive again.
“Originally it was wine grapes and citrus mainly, some stone fruit, in later years we planted some nectarines for the fresh food market and I was growing those until I retired,” he said.
Mr Telfer was among locals who abandoned their cropping land in 2009.
“I decided that the exit package the federal government offered to growers to sell their water entitlement from the Murray River back to the environment was the only way that I could get myself out of the mess that I found myself in,” he said.
The Renmark solar test site is expected to start generating power from the region’s abundant sunshine by the end of this month.
ABC News reports the electricity will be sold back into the electricity grid.