Poultry farmers run sophisticated sheds that automatically regulate temperature, air quality and light conditions. It is therefore usual for a bulk of their energy to be used for heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and for the lighting of sheds.
A realiable electricity supply is critical for chicken farms and their power consumption can be quite significant in comparison to other farming operations, particularly during hot spells. This means that poultry sheds are often a perfect location for solar panels and other alternative forms of energy which can offset a large portion of on-farm electric needs (especially on sunny days) and help to manage demand from the grid.
Due to their large draw on the electricity gird, chicken growers are often burdened with demand and power factor charges from their electricity retailer. In such cases, it is useful to investigate options to reduce peak demand and address power quality. Power factor correction, voltage optimisation and load-shifting may be worthy of consideration.
Heating can also make up a significant portion of a poultry farmers' energy needs, as evidenced in the picture below. Opportunities to reduce this energy cost relate to using efficient heating technologies and improving the insulation and airtightness of the building envelope. This can also be improved by adding insulation to ceilings and walls and coating a shed roof with highly reflective paint.
Another important area of energy use that some poultry farmers may sometimes overlook is lighting. New technologies such as LED lights and more efficiencient fluorescents (T5) have matured and are finally available at reasonable prices. Options generally involve the following substitutions:
- T8 fluorescent tubes swapped to T5 fluorescent tubes or LED tubes
- Halogen or other incandescent lights swapped to efficienct LED bulbs.
However, farmers must remember that poultry sheds can cycle through high temperatures and high humidity conditions which can degrade or damage the delicate electronics in LED lights, causing them to fail. It is therefore very important to make sure that any lights that are installed will meet the sheds functional requirements (e.g. dimming, meeting RSPCA lighting levels) and be rated to withstand the harsh conditions inside the shed, including when the shed is cleaned (as this can involve using high pressure water hoses). An ingress protection rating of IP66 or higher is recommended.
The continuous use of fans for ventilation and cooling means there is great potential for high efficiency and electronic commutative motors. Farmers should ensure that they are utilising the most efficient heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) technologies. Clean, discharge cones on exhaust fans have also been shown to improve fan performance by about 15%.
Maintenance is extremley important to ensure equipment and fans continute to operate efficiently. Evaporator cooling pads and fan guards, shutters and discharge cones should be cleanded before they accumulate too much muck or dust. This will improve airflow and reduce the load required on fans to achieve the same pressure difference (thereby reducing their required speed and power use). If fans are belt driven, cleaning and tightening of belts should be undertaken in accordance with a scheduled maintenance plan.
Poultry farmers should also examine electricity purchasing agreements and keep abreast of the latest price trends in the natural gas market, as the price of this heating fuel is expected to rise dramatically over the coming years.
Below is a list with links to information papers in AgInnovators that hold relevance to improving energy efficiency in the poultry sector:
- Energy-efficient poultry shed ventilation
- Energy-efficient heating in poultry sheds
- Insulating farm buildings
- Energy-efficient farm lighting
- Power Factor Correction
- Voltage optimisation units
- Solar photovoltaic energy on farm
- Reflective roofs and energy efficiency
- Renewable Energy
- Energy purchasing - Electricity
- Energy purchasing - natural and liquefied petroleum gas