Growers could cut, on average, potato store energy bills by maybe £1000-2000 a year, according to Andrew Kneeshaw of energy consultants, FEC Services.
“I imagine Jo Average farmer is spending probably 20-30% more than he needs to with the equipment he is using,” he said.
“That’s based on good evidence from other sectors, such as pig and poultry and horticultural, saving 20-30% a year because of climate change challenges.”
Energy use didn’t have to be inevitable, he told growers in a British Potato 2007 seminar, and there were cost-effective methods of reducing bills.
“Potential areas of savings are through general management, better maintenance, using controllers, improving store structure, and buying more efficient equipment.”
For example, air leaks were the biggest avoidable source of heat gain in stores. Putting seals around doors and building structural joints were very cost-effective, he said.
Other cost-effective measures growers could put in were to make sure refrigeration gas levels were appropriate. “If levels are low the refrigerator might still do the job, but run for twice as long as it would with the correct gas level.”
Also paying attention to maintenance on items, such as fans and ducts, could save energy, he suggested.
When buying new equipment, such as fans, he said store managers should ask suppliers about energy efficiency, in the same way as you might look at energy ratings on washing machines or dish washers.
Value of good monitoring
“Fans don’t have the same government health warnings on them as washing machines that make you think twice about buying a non-energy efficient machine, but take the time to ask suppliers about it. There could possibly be a 30% difference in energy performance.”
It was quite easy to find out energy efficiency of fans and lighting, harder for refrigeration units, he said.
“Also plan for what happens if you have a fan failure,” he said. It was too easy to be in the position of having to take what the fitter had in the back of his van because of urgency, which might not be the best fan for the store, he explained.
“The same principles should apply to other equipment too.”
A British Potato Council project FEC Services was collaborating on was identifying what made an efficient store and the value of good monitoring, he noted. “We’re looking at five stores in great detail to see what good practices are.”
BPC had also produced a poster that outlined 12 steps to energy sufficient storage. The steps included advice on meters and sub-meters, control systems and insulation.