Energy efficiency in the dairy industry
Victorian farm businesses are under pressure from rising electricity costs and an increasing focus on carbon in agriculture. Dairy shed energy consumption in the form of electricity contributes to the costs of running the farm business as well as contributing to farm carbon emissions.
Dairy shed electricity costs
Dairy shed electricity costs have increased over the past five years on average (refer to figure one overleaf). In the five-year period shed power has increased by 22 percent.
These shed costs account for approximately four percent of variable costs in 2010-11. Electricity prices are expected to continue to rise in the future due to metering costs, infrastructure replacement and the introduction of a price on carbon emissions.
Improving energy efficiency on-farm
The potential for improving energy efficiency on-farm are often overlooked by farmers as the relative energy emissions and costs are proportionally small. Energy emissions represent approximately nine percent of Victorian dairy farm businesses emissions profile, compared with methane (73 percent), and nitrous oxide (18 percent) Source: 2010-11 Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project.
Photo: Dairy shed, Ellibank
Main energy uses in the dairy shed
The main uses of energy in the dairy shed are for
- water heating
- milk cooling
- milk harvesting
Focusing on reducing energy consumption in these areas provides the greatest gain for improving energy efficiency.
Every farm's energy system is unique
Every farm is unique and the potential energy savings will vary on individual farms. Any changes to the farming system aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to be considered in context of the whole farm system, including the impacts on profit and risk.
Economic analysis report
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries conducted an economic analysis of five different technologies that reduce energy consumption in the dairy shed. Both electricity costs and carbon emissions were considered in the analysis. The technologies are summarised over the page and are described in more detail in fact sheets 2 to 6 of this series.
The case study farm
A hypothetical case study farm located in Gippsland was developed to model the different technologies. This average sized farm was 130 usable hectares milking 240 cows year round with a split calving herd. The farm produced 1.7 million litres of milk or 537kg milk solids per cow per year.
Figure 1: Dairy shed electricity costs from 2006-07 to 2010-11. Source: Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project.
Energy saving technology in the dairy shed
|Technology||How the technology works||More information|
|5 kW and 30 kW solar panel system||Reduces the electricity sourced from the state's electricity grid||Fact sheet 2|
|Flat plate and evacuated tube solar hot system||Captures solar energy to preheat water for sanitising the milk harvesting plant||Fact sheet 3|
|Thermal heat recovery system||Captures the heat from the refrigerant gases on the milk cooling plant to preheat water for sanitising the milk plant||Fact sheet 4|
|LPG water heating||Replace the source of energy from the state's electricity grid to LPG to heat water for sanitising the milk plant||Fact sheet 5|
|Variable speed drives on oil vane and blower vacuum pumps||Variable speed drives match the speed of the vacuum pump with the demand for air flow||Fact sheet 6|
All fact sheets in this Energy efficiency in the dairy industry series, along with the full report and further information on understanding carbon and emissions in agriculture are available from our Weather and Climate section.
If you would like to receive this information/publication in an accessible format (such as large print or audio) please contact us.
Published by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Farm Services Victoria, April 2012.
© The State of Victoria, 2012
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