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Solar energy system powers major expansion of top dairy business

A top dairy farm is using green energy to power a major expansion of its herd and cut its huge electricity costs – and he plans to be able to show visiting farmers how well it works.

Farmer Aled Morris milks 420 Holstein cows on almost 700 acres on the Denbighshire-Flintshire border at Marian Mawr, near Cwm, Dyserth, and sells it to the Co-op.

He has just had a £20,000 twin-solar system specially designed and installed by local energy experts Hafod Renewables to help cut the massive £400 a week electricity bills run up by the power needed to milk twice a day.

The business, E O Morris and Son, was set up by Aled’s grandfather and he took over when his father Elwyn, died 12 years ago and now runs it in partnership with his mother, Morfudd.

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The farm now produces four million litres of milk a year with each cow contributing nine and a half thousand and he’s a member of Farm Connect which runs visits to the property by farmers.

The milk has to be cooled from 37C degrees when it comes out of the cow down to under four degrees and the giant 20,000 litre tank and the milking equipment has to be washed out with water heated to 85C.

That calls for plenty of electricity and helping share the load now are 36 solar photo-voltaic panels and six solar hot water panels, mounted on the roof of the farm’s extensive outbuildings.

They have been added to the wind turbine that Aled had already installed at the farm and are making a big difference to his costs – as visiting farmers will see on the next Farming Connect farm visit Aled hosts.

David Jones, Managing Director of Hafod Renewables, designed the bespoke system which includes a unique hot water tank which he developed with leading dairy equipment company Cotswold.

He said: “We have installed two different types of solar panels on the roof – the solar hot water panels will heat the water from 10C when it comes through the mains to 60C and then the electricity from the solar PV will boost it up to 85C.

“They also help out, along with the turbine, to cover much of the cost of the machinery in the dairy, including cooling the milk down to under 4C in the tank.

“Solar panels makes sense for dairy farms because they have massive roof space and they use lots of electricity and systems like this can literally save them thousands so they pay for themselves very quickly.

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“The 630-litre hot water tank has a heater installed halfway up it rather than at the bottom so that we can provide a continuous supply of water at 85C and avoid the danger of running out and having to wait for a fresh tank to be heated which is important as the size of his herd here increases.

“It means a saving for him of £3,000 a year which will pay for the system in under seven years and with it guaranteed for 25 years he will have over 18 years of free solar power.

“Aled also has farm visits here so it will be good for farmers to see how well systems like this can work for them.”

Aled, 41, who lives at the 18th century farmhouse with his wife Joanne and five-year-old daughter Beth, said: “We already had the wind turbine and we’re a big user of electricity with a £20,000 annual bill so anything we can do to save on that bill is welcome.

“We have now doubled the amount of water we have to heat for cleaning to 1,000 litres as well as cooling an increased amount of milk down as part of our major expansion and increased production.”

Marian Mawr is just under 700 acres and milks 420 cows twice a day with 300 young stock, grows wheat, maize and beet for fodder and currently employs four full-time staff and four part-time.

Over the next 18 months Aled intends to go up to 500 milking cows and he said: “I would consider putting in more solar panels. We put the wind turbine in five years ago and it’s made a big difference.

“The Co-op collect 11,000 litres a day from us and we have a 20,000 litre milk tank so the next challenge is to fill that every day.

“But renewables are the way forward for farms, especially solar panels because we’ve got so many roofs.

“I don’t like the idea of solar farms because it’s a waste of land but putting them on roofs is ideal and I’m very pleased with the job Hafod have done.”

David, a former Holywell High School pupil, launched Hafod Renewables in a small shop in Denbigh with his father, Richard, nine years ago, before moving to larger premises on the town’s Colomendy Industrial Estate.

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