5 February 1999

Energy audits benefit bottom line

By Simon Wragg

DO not assume energy audits are just for the environmentally conscious – one Derby farm has completed the new Farm Energy Centres energy audit and found milk cooling and water heating costs can be cut substantially.

Nick Corker, who oversees two dairy herds at Derby-based Broomfield College, is the first to complete the audit. It requires a producer to walk around a unit filling in a booklet with details of all electrical equipment. Using an FEC booklet, running costs for all equipment are calculated and can then be compared with the cost of energy efficient equipment.

According to the FECs Stephen Bettany, reviewing electricity costs is important, as they typically account for 3-4% of variable costs. Producers can expect to take a good working day to complete the DIY audit, but any savings add directly to bottom line profit, he says.

Costs slashed

At Broomfield, the audit has picked out two main areas where electricity cost can be slashed. On the colleges 40-cow organic unit running cost for the ageing ice-bank milk storage tank, which has no control switch or plate cooler, is 16.3p/100 litres of milk or £359 a year.

FEC figures suggest milk cooling costs at the organic unit can be slashed to just £140 a year for an ice bank tank and plate cooler, using night-time electricity. "The annual saving of £219 would help pay for the reinvestment," says Mr Bettany.

At the neighbouring 100-cow conventionally managed herd, annual running costs for the modern direct expansion tank, fitted with a plate cooler, are £379 a year; a difference of £20 over the organic units existing tank, yet it cools three times more milk.

Another area of potential cost cutting is water heating. Installing a 225-litre (50gal) spray-foam insulated hot water tank run on night-time electricity would cost £200 a year to run, saving £800 annually on the old water tank.

"Where producers want two hot washes a day, it pays to install and run a second identical tank. This requires only a short heat boost in the afternoon – rather than a complete reheat where a single tank was to be refilled – and gives an annual saving about £350," says Mr Bettany.

Other areas, such as lighting, need little improvement at Broomfield although Mr Bettany would like a maintenance plan to be introduced so all electrical equipment is serviced or repaired regularly. As the audit can be updated annually, FEC encourages producers to prioritise improvements and these can be reviewed year on year.

But was the effort of completing the audit worthwhile? Mr Corker thinks so: "We now know where variable costs can be cut. I also think that milk buyers are becoming more interested in energy use for environmental reasons, although its unlikely to add anything to milk price." &#42

DAIRYENERGYAUDIT

&#8226 Costs £70 with FEC reference books.

&#8226 Telephone back-up given by FEC.

&#8226 Annual renewal charge of £40.

Regular maintenance for lights needs to be put on the action plan, Steve Bettany (right) tells Broomfield Colleges Nick Corker.