Westerway Raspberry Farm was established forty years ago by the Clark Family on 150 acres of the fertile river flats of the Tyenna River on what were old hop fields to supply the local fresh fruit trade and for processing.
Freezing was seen as the key to expanding their market, but the potential energy costs were a major obstacle.
As a solution, Westerway has installed a 50kW solar system to offset the cost of operating its irrigation pumps and a 288 cubic metre blast freezer. The solar scheme comprises nearly a nearly 200-panel system in two 2.5 metre sets 50 metres long to generate the power. The system comprising 192 x 260W Trina Honey modules were installed by Powercom solar.
Powercom Business Development Manager Rohan Windsor said that the solar panels were installed in a paddock rather than a roof as this reduced the wind loading, made it easy to face north to get maximum sun exposure and low maintenance.
“The location of the panels between the farm’s pump and freezer are ideal for maintenance and for future expansion,” he said.
Westerway Harvest Manager Richard Clark said that the freezer has revolutionised their farming operation and the solar has made it more affordable to operate.
“We need to take the fruit from the field and freeze it at its peak quality and it is not viable to slowly freeze warm fruit from the field where summer temperatures can often exceed 30 C.
“The system designed by Powercom is extremely efficient and uses the solar energy on the freezer when needed and then switches over to irrigation when the freezer is not in use.
“The idea was to capture as much energy on the farm, as we need and use it through December, January and February, when most of our activities are in high gear.
“The 2014/15 season was a good one for us especially as there is a growing demand, especially from high end consumers, for Australian grown frozen berries.
“This investment has revolutionised our farm as the solar is making the freezer more affordable to operate.
“As well as the financial benefits of using less energy, we are very happy to now have a smaller environmental footprint.”