Report Synopsis

Renewable Energy Technologies and the Broiler Poultry Industry. Cost reduction and income diversification

Ben Edser

The way things have been done in the past will not be the way things are done in the future. The energy industry is ripe for disruption with a monopolistic energy sector, inconsistent government energy policy, and titanic investment across numerous energy generating technologies and storage. Large energy consumers are in the box seat to capitalise on this momentum, with broiler farm owners possessing a few unique industry factors when it comes to energy use and production.

Approximately 70% of operating costs at a broiler poultry operation fall into four key operating cost areas – labour, electricity, gas and bedding. Significant operational advantages exist where solutions can be implemented which tackle one or more of these items. The political environment surrounding energy generation and supply in Australia is inconsistent and lacks certainty. Australian farmers have experienced escalating electricity and gas costs over the past ten years.

A technology solution which utilises large quantities of poultry manure as a feedstock input to an anaerobic digestion (AD) renewable energy plant is now proven where sufficient quantities of poultry litter are available or accessible. When this solution is implemented on farm it has the potential to generate two to three times the energy required to run the farm, creating the opportunity to generate an alternative income stream for the business through selling the excess power.

Significant investment in renewable energy technologies internationally has seen substantial reductions in the cost of renewables, particularly in the solar photovoltaic (PV) space. Implementing a solar PV installation at some level at a broiler poultry operation today is a viable investment. Scaling up this technology creates a diversified business opportunity where a network connection is cost effective, and the exported power can be sold to an offtake third party for a reasonable price.

Project funding assistance currently exists for the implementation of renewable energy technologies in agriculture and more specifically, poultry. Some very interesting alternative technology solutions exist to dispose of bird mortalities on farm through enclosed vessel composting methodologies.

The opportunity for waste to energy and renewable energy technologies on a poultry farm to offset energy costs (electricity and gas) has positive implications for the industry, farmers, policy makers and the community as a whole.

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