Tipperary dairy farmer slashes electricity bill with solar panels on milking parlour roof

Tipperary dairy farmer slashes electricity bill with solar panels on milking parlour roof

Tom Foley, Solar Electric, Marguerite and John Ryan with Shane Faulkner, Engineer, 3CEA. Picture: Patrick Browne

Tipperary dairy farmers, John and Marguerite Ryan, were spending upwards of €500 a month on electricity alone.

Milking 130 cows twice daily, washing out milking machines and lighting the parlour were major drains on power on the family farm at Gortnahoe near Thurles.

“My father and I were at an energy expo in Kilkenny and in a moment of madness, I inquired about the system. Tom Foley from Solar Electric came to visit us at the farm and confirmed that our roof and electrical layout was ideal for a solar PV installation and battery storage solution. I hadn’t gone out that day to buy anything. But today, I’ve 36 Solar PV panels on the roof of the milking parlour and they’re working away all summer.

“The team at 3 Counties Energy Agency (3CEA) did all the grant paperwork and independently acted as our trusted advisor to validate the technical performance of the equipment proposed. 3CEA found out very quickly for me that I’d qualify for a 30% grant from The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

My last electricity bill included part of the time when the panels weren’t up so it was hard to compare the benefits. I’m expecting that my next bill will be almost halved. The expected pay-back time is just 5 to 6 years.

“The Solar Electric lads had the panels up in a day, the wiring, installing the Sonnen storage batteries and other bits took about a day and a half and there was absolutely no interruption to work or life on the farm. Any surplus electricity generated can also power our home so it’s definitely a win/win for us,” a delighted John Ryan said.

The Ryans knew that going green made sense. They already have an air to water heat pump in their house and John’s father uses solar panels to heat the water in his home. “We will know more when the analysis comes back and the next bill pops into the letterbox. But I’m confident that it was a very good investment.”

3CEA Engineer, Shane Faulkner, said they expect more family farms and other farm enterprises will follow in the footsteps of John and Marguerite Ryan and their J+M Dairies business and invest in 9kWp Solar PV and innovative Sonnen Battery systems to supplement their on-site energy usage under the SEAI Better Energy Communities Programme 2018. 

3CEA and Solar Electric will both be exhibiting at the upcoming Energy Now Expo at Kilkenny’s Cillin Hill on October 24 and 25. 3CEA Manager, Paddy Phelan, has also been working with IFA county office to look at the possibility of more farmers getting involved to secure more savings in CO2 and energy for the 3 counties region.

“J+M Dairies targets were to reduce energy costs, guard against energy price increases, reduce their carbon footprint and set an example for all similar businesses. With the financial grant support offered by SEAI, this made the project feasible with an expected payback period of 6 years.

“With a lifetime expectance of 25 years, this made the proposal very attractive. With the system installed over a few days, there was limited disruption to the farm during this time. Solar Electric from Wexford were the specialist installation company and provide turnkey PV and battery storage solutions to various market sectors since 2012.

“Given the size of the system, planning permission was not required, reducing the timelines involved and allowing J+M Dairies to realise the benefits of the system quicker, and just in time for the great weather this summer.

“As BEC Co-Ordinator, 3CEA guided J+M Dairies throughout the process to allow for drawdown of their 30% grant. We also arranged for third party, independent quality inspections on the work and will analyse the actual savings from the system after a year in operation,” Faulkner concluded giving confidence as an independent energy expert to the Ryans.