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Upgrading farm lighting equipment can achieve energy savings for relatively low investment and should be considered by most farm businesses. Reductions in lighting energy use of 82 percent can be made. Which specific solution best suit your needs will depends on a number of factors. Generally, retrofitting requires less up-front capital and is simpler, but installing a new system is more cost-effective in buildings that contain older equipment. Full replacement of your lighting can also be economical where improvements in technology have led to price reductions.
Mechanical ventilation can optimise the transfer of temperature and the removal of harmful gasses from poultry production facilities. Setting controls to regulate air exchange automatically will allow sheds to maintain desired temperatures with minimal loss of conditioned air. Reducing the loss of conditioned air within facilities enables the maintenance of optimal temperature without requiring as much energy for heating and cooling.
Energy-efficiency improvements of up to five per cent are possible if failed electric motors are replaced with high-efficiency models. High-efficiency motors are more expensive than standard motors but typically demonstrate good return on investment in the small motor range (up to 185 kW). Over a 10-year operating period for a motor, the purchase price represents only about two percent of the total motor installation and operating costs. Even a small improvement in motor operating efficiency can produce significant energy and cost savings.
Insulation can result in efficiency gains of between 20 and 30 percent in some farm buildings, and is integral to the design of modern intensive animal production facilities. Insulation can be applied in roofs, walls and floors, and is best incorporated at the construction stage due to the cost and complexity of retrofitting. A wide range of products can be effective, potentially, in agricultural applications. Selecting materials and calculating your return on investment depends on assessing the specific requirements of your buildings and production system.
Reflective roof coatings can reduce the temperature inside farm facilities by up to 15 percent, reducing the energy demand of heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems. Savings are most significant where there was previously limited or no ceiling insulation in place. When commissioning new facilities or undertaking maintenance of existing ones, the additional cost of adding reflective coating to roofs is likely to be warranted.
Some farmers are unaware that their electricity bills can be reduced by improving the ‘power factor’ (PF) of their facilities. A poor power factor is analogous to a beer with too much head, when the head represents wasted energy. Networks penalise facilities with poor PFs by increasing ‘demand’ (or ‘capacity’) charges. Installing power factor correction devices can help ensure that on-farm electrical equipment uses the voltage provided by the network efficiently and that penalties are not applied as a result of the facility making unpredictable demands on the system.
Solar hot water works well in buildings that have significant roof area on which to locate solar collectors. A solar hot water system should provide between 40 and 60 percent of your hot water needs. Solar hot water systems come with electric or gas boosters to provide the remainder of your hot water needs. Solar hot water systems use solar collectors – either solar panels or evacuated tubes – which absorb energy from the sun to heat water. The heated water is then stored in an insulated tank until you need it. Typical applications are in dairies, piggeries and worker accommodation.
Voltage optimisation can achieve energy savings of between five and 20 percent in situations where mains voltage is higher than is needed by farm equipment. In addition to enabling energy savings, voltage optimisation units protect electrical devices from variation – surges or drops – in mains voltage. Purchasing considerations include the type of unit and the presence of electronic devices in the circuit. The installed cost of a VO unit typically ranges between $150/kVA and $300/kVA.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation has wide application in rural Australia. Although the electricity generated by photovoltaic panels is intermittent, PV systems can help reduce electricity consumption from the network and provide other benefits such as reduced demand charges. Standalone systems using batteries or direct loads can also be used to power equipment, such as irrigation pumps, that are far from network connection points. Although solar PV systems can be scaled to provide all the electrical energy a farm requires, return on investment and needs analyses are essential to ensure farmers select systems of the proper type and size.
Research by NSW Farmers indicates that many farmers have not negotiated the best possible electricity contracts for their operations. Electricity bills are comprised of various charges, some of which are negotiable. The timing of going to market and taking a professional approach to contract development are also significant factors. Effective contract negotiation depends on acquiring a sound working knowledge of electricity market dynamics, the factors that determine pricing, and the terms retailers are likely to accept for a given property and time period.