SA irrigators, farmers turn to generators for electricity stability
Irrigators and farmers are buying diesel generators to secure their power supply, as price and stability issues continue to plague South Australia’s energy grid, industry experts have said.
In recent months the state has suffered widespread blackouts and electricity spot price spikes.
Susie Green, head of the state’s apple and pear grower and cherry grower associations, said some farmers were now investing in generators for stability.
“More and more I’m hearing that people are looking at forms of back-up generation for irrigation pumps and all different systems around their orchards,” she said.
“Particularly as we come into the warmer months there’s certainly concern about security of power supply.
“The last thing we’d want is for the power to go out and not be able to pack cherries in the week before Christmas, so it’s really providing a guarantee that we can continue operating.”
She said growers were “frustrated” with the volatility and were also concerned with the possibility of power outages during a major bushfire.
“[Generators] are not cheap, so it’s not a decision that’s made lightly,” she said.
In September, South Australia suffered a statewide black out when extreme weather knocked out three transmission lines and 22 towers.
But earlier this week about 200,000 homes and businesses lost power due to an outage affecting the interconnector from Victoria.
Every employer needs power security: Whetstone
Liberal MP Tim Whetstone, whose electorate covers the Riverland, said irrigators in his region were also investing in generators.
“Irrigators are turning off pumps, turning off packing houses with these power shortages,” he said.
“They’re having fruit set on their vines, they’re having fruit setting on their orchards, that’s a critically important [time].
“Irrigators, farmers and small businesses, even households now are turning to diesel generation, so that they can have power security.”
Mr Whetstone said, during the most recent blackout event, irrigators were sent an alert from their power providers telling them to turn their pumps off as the spot price soared.
“This is about power security here in South Australia, whether you’re on a contract, whether you’re on the spot prices, every employer, even the big end of town, are needing power security,” he said.
Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation Kyam Maher said the State Government was taking steps to shore-up electricity supply.
“We’re looking at a whole range of strategies, increased gas supply is one of the big strategies,” he said.
“There’s $24 million the Government’s putting in to ensure that we incentivise finding new gas.
“And of course [we’re] leading the charge to fix the national energy market which just doesn’t meet the needs of that’s power.”