The Mailler family from Boggabilla is a guiding light in innovation and they’ve proved it with a field that gleams.
Innovation was in the spotlight on Friday night in Armidale, as the region’s brightest and boldest gathered to celebrate their successes and achievements.
“We are proud of the fantastic stories unearthed at the 2017 Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Innovation Awards,” Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) Chair Russell Stewart said.
The overall RDANI Innovation of the Year Award went to The Mailler’s Chillamurra Solar Farm in Boggabilla, which also won the Optus Armidale Manufacturing and Engineering category.
“We have developed a solar farm approach that is simpler and 40 percent cheaper to construct than others of similar scale. The return on investment is over 10 percent. We have created a model that other people or groups on the land can replicate. My son, Robert did the engineering and David coordinated the construction. It was a family effort that did not receive or require any government funding,” Michael Mailler said.
What the judges said: The Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm is an inspiration.
The Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm is an inspiration.Judges
Michael Mailler was a broadacre dryland farmer in Northern Inland NSW since 1966. The family’s innovations in agriculture were industry changing. To Michaelclimate change is a crisis. His response is a passion for making a difference, as reflected in his “field that gleams”.
In 2015, the Maillers sold their farms and bought a 120 hectare property to develop a medium scale solar farm. Michael Mailler, with his sons Robert and David engineered an amazingly cost-effective solar farm model. A second solar farm is being manufactured on-site in Queensland and the Maillers hope that the model that they have engineered will inspire others.
The farm’s innovative peg system is the second largest of its kind in the world. That innovative approach and the smaller panels used made it 40 percent less expensive than other systems. Simplified engineering and construction meant that the largely unskilled labour could be used. The project was an economic stimulus just below the NSW / Queensland border, with $400,000 going to local wages and $100,000 to contractors.
The plant was turned on in May and had all units working in early July. The plant has an inverter capacity of 3.6 MegaWatts and panel capacity of 4.8 MegaWatts and is currently producing an average of 28 MegaWatt hours per day. The total cost was close to $6milion and the income generated by the electricity being pumped into the grid is approximately three quarters of a million dollars per year.
The engineering simplicity, towards the sustainable manufacture of electricity was achieved with the support of a small group of stakeholder investors but no Government funding.
Beyond prosperity and abundance, the Mailler’s solar farm is an innovation that is a shining light in the dawn of a new era, in which individuals can viably contribute to a more sustainable world.
Member for Northern Tablelands, the Hon. Adam Marshall presented the Community Contribution Award to the inspiringly innovative Liverpool Plains charitable organisation, “Farming for Kids”.
‘The Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Agriculture / Horticulture and Associated Services Category' was won by Starfish Initiatives of Armidale for their UN funded, international “Biochar for Sustainable Soils project”. Finalists were Dale’s Downtown Meats of Uralla and McGregor Gourlay, of Moree. Innovate Ag of Wee Waa received a Highly Commended Award.
The Prime Super Health, Aged-Care and Disability Services Award went to Pathfinders Culture Camps. Tamara Private Hospital, Tamworth and the ASD-IT Club, UNE, received Finalist trophies, while Highly Commended certificates went to Kirinari Community Services, Tamworth, Jennifer Brown of Touriandi Lodge, Bingara and Whipped...Baking for Allergies of Narrabri.
Tenterfield Shire Council’s “Tenterfield True” brand won the Armidale Regional Council “Retail, Tourism and Leisure” category. The Art Shack of Wallabadah and The Guyra TroutFest were finalists. Highly Commended Certificates were awarded to The Blair Athol Boutique Hotel and Day Spa, Inverell, the Dragon Phoenix Resort, Moree and Uralla’s Thunderbolt Festival.
The UNE “Professional and Government Services” category was won by Liverpool Plains Shire Council’s RV Strategy. The Finalists were The University of New England’s Smart Region Incubator and the Liverpool Plains Emergency Services Precinct. A Highly Commended award went to Armidale Regional Council for their Regional Waste Management Facility Project.
The Optus Armidale Manufacturing and Engineering Finalist trophies went to Blue Sky Contracting of Tenterfield and Warialda Engineering & Welding.
The White Rock Wind Farm “Research and Education” category was won by UNE’s Discovery Voyager, while Finalist trophies were presented to O'Connor Catholic College and Armidale PLC.
Magic Electricity Box of Armidale and the Rail Journeys Museum in Werris Creek were recognised through Highly Commended Awards. Renee Neale from Wholegrain Milling in Gunnedah won the overall award last year and was guest speaker this year.
RDANI Executive Officer Nathan Axelsson said that the Northern Inland Innovation Awards perform an important role within the region and beyond.
“This is a very focused awards program and every entry tells a significant story of perseverance and achievement. People are often too busy devoting their energy to the every day to think about what is innovative and distinctive about their approach or product. Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and enhancement of services in our communities. There is much to be gained from identifying, rewarding and promoting our innovators,” he said.
Videos about the award recipients will go on the www.niia.com.au.