CSIRO to trial solar forecasting technology on Australia's largest solar diesel hybrid pumping system in Narromine

When it comes to solar irrigation for agriculture, Narromine is leading the way.

Now in an attempt to reduce on-farm energy costs, Australia's National Science Agency CSIRO will trial its solar forecasting technology at local cotton grower Jon Elder's 'Waverleigh' property, 35 kilometres south-west of Narromine.

Late last year the Elder family unveiled Australia's largest solar diesel hybrid irrigation pump, comprising of 1500 solar panels arranged over one hectare of land. The technology is aimed at reducing diesel consumption used for irrigating the farm by about 50 per cent each year.

One limitation of large scale solar pumping is the 'start stop' effect of intermittent cloud cover causing shading of the solar array.

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Frequent start/stop events can increase generator maintenance needs and pumping equipment, reduce water volume delivered and consume excess fuel.

Senior Research Engineer at CSIRO Chris Knight said their technology will deliver tailored forecasts of cloud movements, through an unblinking 'eye', which will optimise solar energy generation systems.

"An important aspect of CSIRO's work is applying our research to real projects such as this one. The data we collect will deepen our understanding of which applications are best suited to our solar forecasting technology," Mr Knight said.

"This technology can help save both money and emissions. It reduces wear and tear of the generator from reduced use, so also saves on maintenance costs."

Property owner Jon Elder said they were "proud" to be incorporating solar, which not only has reduced one of the highest costs on their farm, which has been a major constraint on growth and factor of vulnerability to drought.

"The partial switch to solar powered pumping is a game-changer for us," Mr Elder said.

"CSIRO's solar forecasting technology could be a further step in the right direction for the industry, bringing Artificial Intelligence into the paddock and influencing how we make decisions every day.

"We're excited to be involved with the research CSIRO and ReAqua are undertaking on our farm."