Opportunities abound for real savings in electricity costs on most dairy farms. At a recent series of Pasture to Profit Discussion Group meetings in England it became obvious that the grass based dairy farmers are already trying innovative ways of making real savings in energy use.
We saw variable speed control units, heat recovery systems, effective night based ice banks & even wind turbines.
The variable speed control units (Varivac) on vacuum pumps & milk pumps have demonstrated savings on electricity useage. On most group members' dairy farms the current pay back period for this capital investment is less than 12 months......making this decision a bit of a 'No-Brainer!' (And no I don't have shares in Varivac) but it's a matter of simple maths.
There may well be other associated advantages too....like lower BMCCs, less risk of stray electricity & even a higher milk price if there is less damage to milkfat (caused by the milk pump). http://www.corkillsystems.co.nz/
It also makes good sense to try to recover heat/energy from existing motors within the milking parlour. Ice banks run over night at the lower electricity tariff make alot of sense too.
A NZ development by Mahana Blue may offer even more possiblities in heat recovery technology. http://www.caenz.com/sustain/Downloads/mahana_blue_case_study.pdf
What can wind turbines offer dairy farms? At first inspection not as much as the variable speed control & heat recovery units.....this is because a dairy farm has two peak demand periods during milking. Wind turbines can't normally meet this unusual requirement. However the wind turbine we did see will help offset the electricity being used on the dairy farm. It maybe more useful for powering water pumps like the good old days of farms having windmills. On current pricing wind turbines have a 8-10 year pay back period.....that's if you have sufficient wind....which you must check.
You need to concentrate on electricity saving devices that have a quick pay back period eg the variable speed control units.
The Rural Development Programme for England has recently made available the 'Agricultural Resource Management Capital Grant Scheme..........up to 40% of the capital cost of energy saving devices on dairy farms could be met by this new grant. Discussion Group members should move quickly to secure these grants in my view.
It seems highly predictable that UK electricity costs are going to rapidly increase. So dairy farmers need to move quickly to control costs & at the same time positively contribute to the environmental issues related to global warming & carbon emissions.
All good exciting stuff!