Farm Ireland

Monday 26 February 2018

Zoning in on farm electricity usage will help keep a lid on overall energy costs

A Teagasc survey found that electricity charges on dairy farms ranged from 0.23c/l to 0.76c/l
A Teagasc survey found that electricity charges on dairy farms ranged from 0.23c/l to 0.76c/l
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

As dairy farmers gear up to expand milk production in 2015 and beyond, the increase in output inevitably means a hike in inputs such as feed and fertiliser but also a hike in energy inputs.

Teagasc researchers examined the cost of electricity on 21 commercial dairy farms and found that while the average cost of electricity equated to 0.49c/l, there was a significant variation between farms.

Some farms were paying as little as 0.23c/l, while others were paying as much as 0.76c/l for their power. On a farm producing 400,000l, this would equate to a difference of €2,100 annually, with electricity charges ranging from €920 to €3,040.

On dairy farms, the amount of electricity used depends chiefly on milk cooling equipment and the amount of hot water used, which are in turn dictated by the number of milking units in the parlour and the level of automation in the milking machine.

When deciding which new or upgraded milking machine and milking cooling equipment to install on your farm, bear in mind that the easiest way to reduce your energy bill is to use effective plate cooling and night rate electricity for your dairy.

As farmers prepare to expand milk production ahead of 2015, here are five of Teagasc's tips for controlling the cost of energy on the farm:

Maximise night rate electricity

Night rate electricity costs approximately half the day rate so try to use as much night-rate electricity as possible. Night rate hours are 11pm-8am during winter time and midnight to 9am for summer time. Where appliances like electrical water heaters are required to operate during night rate hours, digital time clocks with battery backup should be used because analogue timers without battery back up will fall out of sync in power failures.

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Tackle your milk cooling system

Pre-cooling of milk in-line by well or mains water before it enters the tank has a number of advantages that can reduce the cost of milk cooling by up to 50pc, depending on the temperature and supply of water and the efficiency of the cooler you choose.

The tepid water from the pre-cooler can also be used for udder washing, yard washing and for stock. Check that your plate cooler has the correct milk to water flow ratio. Most manufacturers recommend a milk to water flow ratios of between 1:2.5 and 1:3, depending on the model.

If a plate cooler is sized correctly for the output of the milk pump and the correct ratio of water is supplied, then the power consumed during the refrigeration stage can be dramatically reduced.

Check your water heating system

Make sure your water heater timers are set correctly to take advantage of cheaper night-rate electricity. Insulate your hot water pipes with good quality insulation. Heat loss through unlagged pipes costs you money.

Uninsulated pipes will reduce the temperature of the water travelling from the water heater to the wash trough, resulting in less effective washing. Hard water causes lime scale build up on electrical elements, leading to higher running costs and a shorter life for the element. Identify and eliminate leaks.

A leak as small as one litre per hour can waste 8,500 litres of hot water and 3,800 kWh per year.

Focus on the vacuum pump

Choose high efficiency motors and variable speed drives where possible for your vacuum pump.

The addition of a variable speed drive (VSD) to the vacuum pump of a large modern milking machine can result in savings of over 60pc on vacuum pump running costs. That equates to a saving of €410 per year for a 100-cow farm.

Improve your lighting

Choose high efficiency light fittings and, where you are embarking on a new build or

re-fit of an existing parlour, spend time and choose where your lights should be situated for maximum effect.

In existing parlours, clean all windows and sky lights to maximise natural daylight and reduce your dependence on artificial lighting.

Irish Independent