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Energy Saving Tips for Agriculture Customers

Energy Saving Tips – Commercial Agriculture

Commercial customers have energy needs that are unique and vary widely depending on the industry or business. Finding ways to save energy can mean big operational energy savings, a smaller carbon footprint and improved profitability. Businesses can qualify for efficiency programs and earn rebates for energy-saving purchases when they consider new machinery or appliances to improve operations and conserve energy.

Pioneer is committed to being your community-owned resource and to helping our commercial customers research and implement options to save money on their energy bills. We’ve curated information from specific industries and provided energy-saving tips and tricks which reduce consumption and ultimately improve your bottom line. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR program provided many of the cost and energy-saving recommendations found here.

Energy Efficient Lighting

  • Using energy-efficient LED bulbs and fixtures to light the farm helps reduce the amount of energy spent on lighting by as much as 80 percent.
  • Dimmers, timers or occupancy sensors should be used along with daylight sensing light fixtures that automatically switch off when daylight is sufficient.

Maintaining Irrigation Systems

  • In all irrigation piping, try to reduce the number of bends and joints across the system. A bend in a three-inch diameter pipe contributes as much loss in pressure as an additional ten feet of pipe would. The fewer bends and fittings in a network of pipes mean less energy is required to run pumps.
  • Use irrigation systems during hours of darkness to minimize the evaporative effects of the sun.
  • As much as possible use gravity-fed water supplies to reduce the need for pumps.

Optimize the design of the Irrigation Systems

  • The overall efficiency of an irrigation system can be enhanced by taking into consideration the overall design of the irrigation system and the efficiency of all the associated equipment. This includes everything down to the basic elbow joints.
  • The use of elbow joints and bypasses should be minimized as they restrict the flow of water and cause pumps to work harder.

Motors and Energy Impact

A major consumer of energy on farms is the use of motors. In California, 55 percent of farm motors are powered by petrol. The remaining 45 percent are powered by electricity. Taking steps today to conserve energy on farms from motor consumption will go a long way toward environmental conservation efforts.

The first step in saving energy is to reduce motor use in the first place. This can be done in a number of ways, including:

  • The installation of a variable speed drive that can save between 15 and 40 percent of the energy consumed.
  • Using a premium efficiency motor instead of a standard motor helps increase efficiency by 2 to 10 percent.
  • Having your existing motors tuned and optimized can improve performance by as much as 50 percent.

Testing and Maintaining Irrigation Pumps

  • The motors of irrigation pumps on a farm should be tested every two or three years.
  • If pumps are working at less than 50 percent of their optimal performance they should be replaced with more efficient ones.
  • Pumps that are working between 55 to 60 percent may need to have their impellers adjusted or replaced to increase efficiency. This helps in scenarios where pump efficiency and pump demand is mismatched.
  • A small impeller attached to a large motor can prevent over-pumping which leads to waste in energy consumption.
  • Regulating the distance between the impeller and the pump wall will also help in improving energy efficiency.
  • Testing and maintaining the irrigation pumps will help extend the lifespan of the pump.

Buying New Machinery

  • In some instances, buying new energy-efficient machinery reduces the overall cost of operations and pays back the initial investment by the energy savings incurred.
  • The size of the motor needs to be accurately matched with the expected load requirement.
  • If a pump is under or overloaded, the pump is likely to perform below standards.

Using Variable Speed Drives

Why use variable speed drives on farms?

Using a variable speed drive on a farm is one way of saving on a farm’s energy expenditures. Variable speed drives are crucial for certain farm machinery such as vacuum pumps. This is because this machinery operates at full speeds for maximum capacity loads, even though the maximum capacity may not be utilized.

How do variable-speed drives save energy?

Modern vacuum pumps that utilize variable speed drives are able to change pump capacity to meet the required needs. These drives are fixed to a motor and act as a speed regulator. The energy efficiency of these drives allows for energy savings of 50 to 80 percent. A conventional vacuum pump always operates at maximum capacity and uses a regulator to draw extra air into the system. A variable speed drive on the other hand will be able to match the amount of actual air in the system with pump speed. This is achieved by regulating the speed of the motor instead of trying to regulate the system vacuum level.

Advantages of using a variable speed drives

Variable Speed Drives have the added benefit of being quieter than regular drives. Since variable speed drives slow the average speed of the pump to less than half the constant speed, it reduces the amount of wear and tear that a pump might otherwise be subjected to. Pumps with variable speed drives do not require constant oil lubrication of the pump cavity and thus decrease the number of oil-related pollutants that could potentially contaminate the soil near a pump’s exhaust port.

Energy Saving Tips for Dairy Farmers

Milk Storage

Use a vat wrap to insulate your milk storage container. Vat wraps help insulate milk storage containers and can lead to energy savings of up to 20 percent. Using a heat recovery system can also reduce water heating costs by as much as 50 percent.

Plate Coolers on a Dairy Farm

Milk needs to be cooled from a temperature of 98F to 40F to prevent spoiling. Using a plate cooler helps substantially reduce the temperature of the milk in a short amount of time. These coolers reduce the demand for dairy cooler compressors and help in lowering the bacterial count in the milk. Simultaneously the system also manages to pre-warm water that may be used for other purposes. Factors that affect the system include the temperature of the water and the ratio of water to milk in gallons per minute. The number of times the milk will pass through the cold water channels also affect the effectiveness of the system.

General Agricultural Energy Saving Tips

  • Keep your irrigation equipment in good condition. Routine maintenance, tuning and lubricating can significantly improve your system’s efficiency.
  • Replace your V-belt drives. Upgrading equipment that uses those old drives can significantly reduce your power consumption.
  • Adjust the usage schedule of your equipment throughout the day to reduce run times and take advantage of off-peak hours.
  • Upgrade to high-efficiency machinery and equipment that requires less electricity to run.
  • Actively manage the settings on your HVAC system. Adjusting the temperature just a few degrees can make a big impact on your energy costs.
  • Install programmable thermostats to accommodate multiple operating schedules.

These tips have been compiled from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR program. If you have any questions about other ways to reduce your energy bills, please contact your Pioneer Community Energy team by email at info@pioneercommunityenergy.org or by phone at (916) 758-8969.

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