Rural

Cane farmers go 100% solar to avoid Ergon charges

WATERING CANE: Industrial size sprinklers irrigate a cane farm on Goodwood Road. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
WATERING CANE: Industrial size sprinklers irrigate a cane farm on Goodwood Road. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet

A BUNDABERG cane growing family has decided to go off Ergon Energy's electricity grid and go completely solar because of high electricity prices.

Three long concrete strips in a Bundaberg cane field mark the first personal, decisive blow by Queensland farmers in retaliation against State Government-owned utility Ergon Energy's excessive power prices.

The three strips, which have cost around $20,000 to lay, will provide the hard standing for a solar power system which will take the Griffin family's 80ha Bundaberg sugarcane property completely off the Queensland electricity grid.

"This is a direct response to the soaring power prices which have been crippling farmers like us for years now," said Kelvin Griffin, who runs the farm with his wife Helen and adult children.

"If we used Ergon's power for irrigation, if we could afford it, we would be putting at least $40,000 to $50,000 a year into this power giant's pocket.

"We won't, and can't, do that. But we can take our custom away completely and go off-grid.

"From now on, our power money goes to pay off our solar system, and make us independent of this government-run giant which obviously does not want to listen to farmers and ordinary families who simply cannot afford their huge electricity costs."

For the Griffin family, it means that after battling flood, drought and now with sugar prices hitting a six-year low, they have to take on a $100,000 debt to pay for the solar power system.

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group spokesman Dale Holliss said the decision to take on this debt had been forced on the Griffin operation due to economic negligence by the Queensland Government.

"Why should people have to buy their own power infrastructure when our gold-plated network has already been funded by their taxpayer dollars?" he said.

"The State Government has had the chance to reverse the impossibly high power prices imposed by its 100% government-owned electricity utility, Ergon - rip-off prices which have soared for irrigators by 96% since 2009."

The decision to go completely off-grid from Ergon was taken by the Griffin family after much heart-searching.

"We sat down and discussed the future of the farm and whether it would be here for our kids," said Jason Griffin, 33, who lives on the farm with wife Felicity and two daughters.

"We had to make a hard decision - $100,000 is a big debt to take on with the tough economic times - but we worked out we could have it paid off in six or seven years for around the same money as we are paying right now to Ergon, even without using our irrigation capabilities.

"By irrigating using solar, we also can increase our production back to the 7000 tonnes a year we used to get when we irrigated fully.

"If we could afford to irrigate using Ergon electricity, which would cost us at least $10,000 a quarter, we could have it paid off within two and a half years.

" We have to face facts that for around the price of buying a new 120-horsepower tractor, we can get our own solar and escape the ongoing pressures of government-run electricity."

Kelvin Griffin said the system they had chosen had a 25-year guarantee, which meant that once it was paid off the farming operation could enjoy decades of cost-free power.

"We're powering off the grid to power on," he said.

"For us, and many farmers, there is no choice.

"There are many farms which have been handed on for seven, eight generations and to walk away because the government is acting in a way that is economic madness for such a core industry is not acceptable."



Ergon is sweating on us to save power during heatwave

CLEAN UP: Make sure you clean your air-conditioner filters, says Ergon's Roslyn Baker.

Top tips to reduce power used by air-conditioners

Bushfire threat continues months longer than expected

Unseasonally hot and dry weather has firefighters on alert

More than 100 passengers affected by train derailment

A freight train has derailed at Raglan.

Emergency services respond to freight train accident

Local Partners

Master artists showing pastels at Gin Gin

PASTEL POWER: A piece by Tricia Taylor from the Pastel Society of Australia.

Contemporary Master Artists of Australia has opened at Gin Gin

Wonder Woman a ‘disjointed disaster’, says DC insider

Gal Gadot in a scene from the movie Wonder Woman.

INSIDER says the much-hyped blockbuster will disappoint.

Kid nails Swift impersonation

Seven-year-old Xia Vigor nails Taylor Swift impersonation on the Philippine talent show Your Face Sounds Familiar Kids.

TAYLOR Swift has a seven-year-old doppelganger.

Ariana Grande 'hardest working 23-year-old on Earth'?

Ariana Grande

Not everyone was impressed with Grande’s self-proclaimed work ethic

Why The Walking Dead cast are paid a pittance

Despite massive ratings the cast haven't been shown the money

50 Shades Dornan on why he hates the film

Dornan and Johnson’s frequent sex scenes were ‘awkward’ to film. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Jamie Dornan doesn’t blame you for hating 50 Shades

Sunday auction for historical home

Former Catholic school sure to attract spirited bidding

Looking back, looking ahead in Noosa

NEVER-ENDING GLORY: Looking towards Laguna Bay and Hastings St from Noosa National Park.

Natural appeal of Noosa continues to attract buyers

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

'Difficult times': Rental prices tipped to increase in 2017

GREAT BUYS: There are some great rentals and houses to buy in South Gladstone. Head to gladstoneobserver.com.au for the top 10 homes under $100 to rent right now in the Gladstone region.

Investors may soon see a "profitable return” on properties.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!