Farmers in the West Midlands are being encouraged to look at ways of improving efficiency of energy use on their farms and to consider investing in renewable technologies.
Up to 50% grant funding is available under the RE:think Energy scheme, run by the Marches Energy Agency, with a maximum grant of £35,000 towards the cost of capital investments.
And as part of the scheme, Herefordshire rural services company 7Y is also offering free energy audits to farmers in the area.
|ENERGY AUDITS "EASY WINS" |
- Install low energy light bulbs
- Invest in a "smart meter"
- Review gas and electricity contracts
- Upgrade ceiling, wall and pipe insulation
- Consider heat exchangers
- Harvest rain water
- Consider biomass for heating
"To qualify, farmers must have a capital project in mind, such as anaerobic digesters, combined heat and power (CHP), wind or solar energy," explains 7Y managing director Richard Jackson. "Once they have registered with RE:think, we can go in to conduct a feasibility study of their particular project, as well as a free audit of their current energy use."
These energy audits are extremely useful in identifying "quick wins" for the farmer.
According to Mr Jackson, lighting is one of the key areas where improvements can be made for a minimal investment (see table, below). "Simply by switching to low energy light bulbs, considerable savings can be made - especially in things like poultry houses."
7Y consultant Sarah Wells also points to insulation, which is often not up to standard, and the use of smart meters, which enable a farmer to identify peak periods of energy use and then take steps to reduce it.
"We also look at resource efficiency," she adds. "Are farmers harvesting their rain water? And are they taking all steps to keep it separate from dirty water? With the extension of NVZs, reducing dirty water means a reduction in the slurry storage requirement."
As well as the energy audit, 7Y is also involved in the evaluation of the renewable energy projects, of which there is a wide range.
"Heat-only biomass systems such as woodchip boilers are probably the most advanced in terms of technology and viability," says Mr Jackson. "Anaerobic digesters are also well-developed and reliable. But CHP systems still face many technical and economic challenges."
Mr Jackson believes that green energy provides a real opportunity for farmers to reduce their costs, and to boost their incomes by selling electricity to the national grid. But there is a clear need for government to take a lead if the UK is to catch up with developments elsewhere in Europe, he adds.
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