Colac’s Australian Lamb Company has completed a $2.4-million investment in solar energy, which is part of a long-term and environmentally focused strategy to deal with rising energy costs.
The meat processor’s chief financial officer Dale Smith said the massive system included 4400 solar panels, utilising all available roof space at the site, and generated 1.2 megawatts of electricity.
“It’s a major installation in terms of what’s been done on industrial sites; to put that in context there was a system of the same size installed at the University of Queensland and that was groundbreaking,” Mr Smith said.
But the 1.2 megawatts of electricity generated is only about a third of what the company uses, primarily because of the amount of refrigeration required in meat processing.
“You hear of people putting in solar and being able to put power back into the grid but we will be utilising all the energy we generate and it will be insufficient for our needs.
“But our energy costs had doubled last year and because we are an exporter that cost for our business goes straight to our bottom line; we can’t pass it on,” he said,
explaining the challenge of being competitive in an international market when energy was cheaper in other countries.
Mr Smith said the multi-million-dollar investment was a long-term strategy with a long-term payback but it was an environmental decision as well as dealing with rising costs.
He said there were other projects that would have paid for themselves quicker than the solar option but finding a solution was not just about the financial aspect.
ALC has also been able to maintain production throughout the solar installation, with 700 staff working across two shifts, five days a week at the Colac processing plant.
Meanwhile, ALC will join Australia’s other leading energy innovators at a Barwon New Energy Roundtable at Geelong on Wednesday.
Mr Smith said he would attend with ALC’s environmental manager Quirinus Onderwater who would make a presentation on the company’s energy plans and new solar project.
“It’s an opportunity to share a little bit about us and also to hear from other businesses about different projects and ideas to try to solve this common problem we have: rising energy costs,” he said.
The Roundtable will bring together about 200 renewable energy project advocates, technology providers, financiers and investors, local industry, community groups and other relevant stakeholders to identify projects, and promote new energy and energy efficiency opportunities, jobs and economic growth in the region.
For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.