With energy prices at near-record levels there has never been a better time to check whether savings can be made on electricity charges and to ensure your supplier is offering a competitive deal.
The starting point for any assessment of electricity costs is checking what is being paid and comparing it with other similar producers, said Farm Energy Centre project engineer Jon Swain.
“Without knowing what you’re paying in terms of cost a litre, you can’t make realistic comparisons and projections.”
One farm looking to shave electricity costs is Rhual Dairy – a share farming agreement involving John, Anna and Reg Booth and their neighbour Major Heaton.
John and Anna Booth took their energy bills to the MDC stand at the Dairy Event to take up the offer of benchmarking it against other units.
“We found that electricity is currently costing about 0.5p/litre, which sounds a little high,” said John Booth.
“This is the first time we’ve thought about the cost in terms of pence a litre, but we always had a feeling that bills were a bit high.”
Mr Swain, who believes the farm could halve its electricity bills, suggested the first place to look for savings is the area of highest electricity use, generally the parlour.
“Using cheaper night-time electricity to build up ice in ice banks for milk cooling can save money.”
Currently, due to ice bank size, Rhual Dairy is using both day-time and night-time electricity to cool milk.
“But, by investing in a larger ice bank or a second one of the same size, the unit could just use night-time electricity to build up ice,” said Mr Swain.
Another consideration may be using heat recovery units to use heat generated by milking machine compressors to warm water for cleaning milking systems, added Mr Swain.
“When this can increase water temperature by 20-30C it will reduce electricity use.”
For Mr Booth, the dirty water irrigation system is an area which may require attention.
“This runs during the day, as I’m always fearful of a problem occurring, such as a leak, and the pump running for no reason.”
But Mr Swain suggested using a system which could alert Mr Booth by mobile phone to any problems, allowing the irrigation system to run at night on cheap rate electricity.
“Other areas for attention on many units are lighting and parlour ventilation fans,” said Mr Swain.
“Changing electricity supplier is another option to consider, although producers need to check contract terms as they may have long notice periods.”