Energy use on farms
Energy efficiency both on-farm and along the supply chain will help minimise impacts of rising energy costs for heat, electricity, gas and liquid fuels. Additionally, there is a range of cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels for energy generation either currently available or in development.
Greenhouse gas calculators often show that farm energy use is a small portion of overall farm emissions. However, for many farmers (such as those involved in more intensive agriculture such as dairy and horticulture) energy is a significant and growing cost, so finding alternative energy sources and improving energy efficiency can save money and reduce emissions.
Farmers who increase their energy efficiency and find alternative, low cost sources of fuel, heat and electricity may become more resilient, energy efficient and profitable.
Understand your energy use:
- get an energy assessment or audit to the national standard (AS/NZS 3598.2:2014) to measure your current energy use and highlight areas for improvement.
- compare your energy bills to other offers available in your area by visiting the independent Victorian Government energy price comparison website.
- check your tariff and your off-peak rates to make sure you are getting the best deal.
- explore ways to reduce energy use by focusing on high energy input areas. Investigate opportunities to reduce energy inputs by changing practices or doing the same operation more efficiently.
- take time to understand how to interpret your energy bills, usage and costs. The way you are charged for electricity use depends on a number of factors including your electricity distributor, the type of meter you have and the size of your business which is determined by your network demand (kVA) and consumption (kWh).
- energy meters may assist in working out where and when you are using the most power as well as how much energy different appliances use.
Consider your options:
- identify if it is possible to be flexible about when you use your energy and consider opportunities to shift the time you use energy to off-peak to reduce energy costs.
- consider energy efficiency as a factor when making changes to farm management or investing in new equipment or infrastructure.
- develop a long-term plan to replace inefficient equipment.
- develop and follow a regular maintenance schedule for machinery, equipment and vehicles and ensure modifications do not affect their efficiency.
- carefully match engine power to the requirements of irrigation pumps. Three phase motors are often more energy efficient. Consider installing variable speed drives (VSDs) onto pumps on the farm to match flows to requirements.
Make efficiency gains:
- improve the efficiency of irrigation practices. For example, schedule irrigation based on soil moisture monitoring devices, use solar power for electricity-based irrigation pumps and set irrigation schedules to minimise use of peak tariff rates.
- perform a pump test to identify how efficiently pumps are operating. Installing an hour metre on a pump is a low-cost strategy that can provide valuable information on how to prioritise pump improvements.
- optimise irrigation pump performance to reduce diesel consumption and increase water flow rates.
- move from conventional tillage to minimum tillage. This can create savings of around 10 percent of fuel on farm.
- insulate buildings, storage and refrigeration devices, and heating and cooling pipes. Use light coloured, heat reflective paint on roofs and walls.
- invest in energy efficient cool rooms and refrigeration. Quick cool-down of meat products and pre-cooling of fruit and vegetables will provide energy savings along the ‘cold chain’ while maintain product quality and food safety standards.
- maximise the use of natural light and ventilation in farm buildings.
- consider efficient home heating using efficient split systems (heat pumps) combined with solar power to reduce winter heating costs.
- install energy efficient lighting and equipment sensors making sure you always turn the lights off when they are no longer needed.
- choose the most efficient and cost-effective fuel source such as renewables rather than fossil fuels.
- consider production of bioenergy to generate heat and/or electricity from agriculture or plantation waste and residues (wood chips to run heaters/hot water, biogas from effluent, straw for pellets or energy/heat/hydronic systems etc).
- obtain energy from renewable sources such as solar panels and accessories including inverter and batteries, wind and ground sources heat pumps, where possible.
- explore options for renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofit grants and incentives such as the Victorian Energy Up-grades program (VEU) and the small-scale renewable energy scheme.
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