Karin and Jon are cotton and wheat farmers committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The environmental benefits (of the 500kW solar system) are something we're proud of, with 500 tonnes of CO2 no longer entering the atmosphere each year.”
Name: Karin Stark and Jon Elder
Business and/or property name: Waverleigh, Narromine
Farm Size: 2500 ha
Farm locality/region: Narromine, central-west NSW
Topography: flat, clay soils
Primary Outputs: 550 hectares irrigated cotton, dryland wheat, chickpeas and sometimes barley/sorghum
Secondary Outputs: Renewable energy (solar) improving our landscape
Jon Elder’s family have been farming their 2500ha central west NSW property near Narromine for four generations. In a good season, they grow 550-570ha of irrigated cotton using pumped groundwater. In winter, they crop dryland wheat or chickpeas.
Over the last ten years Jon and Karin have experienced floods and droughts as well as hotter summers. Until this year they had not grown a successful winter wheat crop for two years and in the 2018/19 summer the extreme temperatures caused their cotton plants to stop growing. Until recently the cost of diesel for their irrigation pumps was their highest operating cost on the farm. They were spending $300,000 just to run their pumps each summer.
Jon Elder walks past his solar array.
These changes in climate are reducing their farm profit and changing how they farm. But they have addressed the challenge head on. In 2018 Karin and Jon installed a 500kW solar, diesel hybrid irrigation pump, the largest in the country at the time. The pump is reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by 500 tonnes/year and has been saving them $170,000 in diesel costs a year. This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by approximately 40 households or 200 cars.
In 2019 Karin founded the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference and Expo to promote the use of renewables on farms. Karin is also director of Farm Renewables Consulting that works with Government, the Not for Profit and business sectors to increase knowledge in the agriculture and energy space, with a focus on renewables.