When you buy your next block of cheese, it may have been produced using solar power — especially if it's from a farm in the rolling hills of southern Tasmania.
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The rooftop system produces more power than is needed to run the dairy. (Supplied: Leap Farm)

Leap Farm at Copping, south of Hobart, is home to dairy goats, beef cattle, and now a solar system that runs the operation.

Iain and Kate Field set up the farm six years ago with the goal to produce goat cheese using as much renewable energy as possible.

“We have a goat house along with a milking platform and a cheese-making plant in our dairy shed, milking some 72 goats a day,” Mr Field said.

“The dairy shed is a big energy user, with three phase pumps, refrigeration, pasteurisation and a 1,000-litre hot water system.

“This area has become very dry over the past few years, hence a lot of days with plenty of sun and a no-brainer when it came to deciding on a solar system.”

A state government grant to cover half the bill meant the cost of placing 11 kilowatts of solar power on the shed’s roof was possible, and the Fields are happy with their $17,000 investment.

“It’s halved our total power bills, and it’s meant we are now producing more power than we are using in the dairy and are sending power back to the grid,” Mr Field said.

“The milk we are using doesn’t have to be trucked anywhere, and the solar power fires up the hot water system for pasteurising the milk for the cheese making.”

The cheese has become the farm’s primary source of income, complemented by selling the excess goat herd and beef from its small number of cattle.

The Fields are also determined to improve the way they catch, store and use the rain that falls less and less in an area that once boasted full dams and lush greenery.

“All our planning for the farm is long-term, especially with the fact we don’t have irrigation, and decent rainfalls are fewer and further apart,” Mr Field said.

“I think there are great opportunities out there for farmers to convert their energy systems to renewables and save large amounts of money on their energy bills.”

“Most farms have sheds with big roofs where you can install solar systems, and farmers should also look to the future with regard to battery-powered farm vehicles.

“Farm vehicles spend plenty of time parked in sheds and can easily carry the batteries powered by a solar system similar to what we’ve installed.”

The couple are also confident that the solar system will provide the energy they need, seven days a week, over the next few months prior to winter.

“We make the cheese seasonally from September through to May and do not need the extra power when cheese making tails off through the cool months,” Mr Field said.

Two more local dairies are getting out after another tough year.

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