Light years ahead - Installing LED lighting has cut energy bills by 60pc on one Midlands farm
Lighting is one of the greatest expenses for pig farmers. It's not surprising then that when one farmer realised that installing more energy efficient lighting options would save him money, he jumped at the chance.
Mattie Moore (41) and his wife Miriam are pig farmers based in Croghan, Co Offaly. The farm, which has been in operation since Mattie's father Patrick began the family business in the 1970s, now rears 1,800 sows each year.
Up until recently, T5 and T8 fluorescent lights were in operation in the farm's gestation sheds. According to Mattie, they were "outdated" and required lots of maintenance, so he decided to do some research and found that LED lighting would best fit his farm's needs.
He then came across UrbanVolt. "LED lights for pig sheds had been talked about a lot for the last few years, so I decided I wanted to upgrade to them as I heard they were more cost-effective," he said.
"There were so many options out there but I chose to go with UrbanVolt to install the lights as if the lights falter within a certain length of time they have a guarantee, so it was reassuring that they could stand by that."
UrbanVolt is based in Dublin and offers a 'Light as a Service' (LaaS) model where it invests its capital to install energy-efficient lighting. The company is then paid a proportion of the energy savings which are generated over a five-year period. The 'pay-as-you-save' means that the farmer has significantly lower monthly energy bills and UrbanVolt is paid monthly as the savings are realised. This means the farmer gets a full LED upgrade and a net monthly saving.
The UrbanVolt project management team oversaw the retrofitting of 164 uniform LED linear fittings on Mattie's farm, which created consistent light levels across the site.
According to Mattie, the UrbanVolt team did a "neat job" and he was delighted with the finished product.
"In fairness they did a great job because they probably weren't used to working in buildings that had pigs in them. It was a very neat job and there were no issues. It only took a few days and they got it done when they said it would be done," he said. "It is more cost-effective for the farm and since our pigs use 16 hours of light each day it's very important to us."
Mattie has saved 41 megawatt hours of light on his farm by having the LED lights installed - this has resulted in 59pc energy savings overall.
In recent times, Mattie admits that he has become "more environmentally conscious" and encourages farmers to consider LED lighting if they feel the system would work for them.
"We installed heat pumps for the water and would like to install solar panels on the sheds. It depends on what fixtures a farmer already has installed and the condition of the lights but I'd recommend LED lights as they end up paying for themselves in the long-run," he added.
Teagasc's rural and bioenergy specialist Barry Caslin said that LED lights are "hard to beat" when it comes to energy reduction. They can be used in a variety of areas on the farm.
"They may cost more to install but they last longer and are more energy-efficient. They've come on leaps and bounds and are ideal in the milking parlour or in the yard where you need good lighting," he said.
While UrbanVolt co-founder Graham Deane explained that the farming sector wasn't initially an industry they had targeted their service to, he added that they soon received enquiries from farmers looking for ways to decrease their energy bill.
"We work with any large farm or business which has a lighting or energy problem they need solved. Pig farmers are particularly fond of what we do as they have a lot of lights, and it is typically some time since their sites were upgraded.
"Some of these farmers are also expanding at the moment and they are delighted to be able to cut some cost from a capital project and outsource the lighting element to us. As well as saving some of the cost on the build, they get to enjoy smaller energy bills long into the future."
Mr Deane also pointed out that in this era, where talk of carbon footprints is a hot topic, the energy savings and environmentally-friendly aspect of their service makes it even more attractive to farmers.
"The cost benefits go without saying - farmers don't have to put up any capital or give any personal guarantees and they see immediate savings as their energy bill is reduced from day one," he said.
"There is no other technology which delivers the same immediate benefits as LEDs. They deliver a 75pc reduction in energy consumption which means the farmer reduces their carbon footprint from day one of the installation. For farmers or food production facilities which are part of any sustainability programme such as Bord Bia's Origin Green, LaaS is a huge leap they can take without taking on any cost or risk."
Since the end of 2017, UrbanVolt have been offering a Solar as a Service solution to farmers.
Mr Deane said that farms are an ideal place for solar energy but said that it should only be looked at once farmers had made other efforts to reduce energy consumption on the farm.
"We bring clients on the Energy Technology Roadmap which means reducing energy use and applying other technology to generate energy on site," he said.
Mattie Moore on his pig farm in Croghan, Co Offaly; (below) with Michael Delaney from UrbanVolt
PHOTOS: NAOISE CULHANE
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