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Photovoltaic systems on dairy farms: An economic analysis

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2018 ASABE Annual International Meeting  1800813.(doi:10.13031/aim.201800813)
Authors:   Michael C Breen, John Upton, Michael D Murphy
Keywords:   Dairy equipment, Dairy farms, Milk cooling, Photovoltaic cells, Renewable, Solar energy, Water heating.

Abstract. The aim of this paper was to perform an economic analysis on the use of photovoltaic (PV) systems on dairy farms. Dairy farm energy and economic models and a PV system model were employed in this work to ascertain the financial feasibility of PV systems in an Irish dairy farming context. Farms of three different sizes with four equipment configurations were used for the analysis. For each farm and configuration, the grant aid required for ten year payback on 4 kWp, 8 kWp and 11 kWp PV systems was determined. The minimum PV system size and grant aid required for farms to meet the 27 % EU 2030 renewable energy target were also determined. It was found that the most suitable farm configuration for a PV system used direct expansion milk cooling, with water heating taking place after the morning milking commenced. The required grant aid for this farm configuration varied from 5 % to 68 % depending on the farm and PV system size. The annual reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the scenario where no PV was installed ranged from 753 kg to 5,108 kg. It was shown that for larger farms PV systems were more economically beneficial. It was also found that smaller PV systems were more financially feasible than larger ones. When the 27 % EU renewable energy target was introduced as a constraint, the minimum PV system size required varied from 1.8 kWp to 7.9 kWp depending on the size and configuration of the farm. The results in this paper may be used to support government bodies in forming new policy regarding grant aiding for PV systems.

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