The Energy Savers energy efficiency audits of 130 Queensland farms, have helped farmers identify where they can make energy savings and other efficiency improvements.
The energy audits involved examining power use on the farms and taking measurements of the most energy-intensive equipment. The final audit reports included a list of recommendations with costings that the farmers could use to make investment and management decisions.
Big savings possible
Significant energy savings were identified on a Bundaberg macadamia nut and sugar cane farm. Motor upgrades and installing a number of variable speed drives were recommended for the irrigation system, resulting in reduced pumping costs of 16 per cent and 39 kW in demand savings. The capital cost was $22,000, which sounds significant, but the estimated payback period was only 15 months. There were also $11,000 in annual savings available by changing tariffs.
On a Mareeba horticulture and cane farm, the auditor compared upgrading an 18.5 kW centrifugal pump with replacing it with a high efficiency model or retrofitting a variable speed drive. Both options offered around 50 per cent energy savings or nearly $4,000 per year with a payback period of two years. The project has given the grower the idea to increase the size of the pump with a variable speed drive to expand the farm!
On a Mareeba citrus and avocado farm, the pump system was incurring high friction losses as the water was being moved uphill to the irrigation blocks through a mains pipe that was too narrow to deliver the required water. As a result, the auditor recommended reducing the size of the pump and pumping over a longer period. By reducing the pump from 45kW to 18 kW with a variable speed drive and increasing the pump time, the farm would cut costs by $3,200 a year with a payback period of around four years. A 16 kW solar power system on the packing shed would save an additional $6,000 per year with a payback period of just over three years.
Tips for reducing water and energy costs
Over the 130 audits the Energy Savers team have identified five ways to reduce your water and electricity bills:
Tip 1. Know your energy and water use
Businesses that monitor their energy and water consumption end up paying less. Record your energy and water consumption and your production output at over time and work out how much energy and water you use per unit of output, e.g. kWh or ML/t. Check this regularly and compare it with other growers and set targets to reduce energy and water use.
Tip 2. Look for easy wins
Conduct a walk-around to look for wasted energy on site. Turn off appliances when they’re not needed. Dust equipment like motors, compressors, condensers and ducting. Check for leaks in compressed airlines, ducting and cold rooms. Allow for smooth flow in irrigation systems: extra check valves, right-angles, ‘T’ junctions and narrow pipes increase friction and mean that more energy is needed to pump the required amount of water.
Tip 3. The right amount of water at the right time
Pumping water is a major cost on many farms and farmers have saved energy through water use efficiency projects. By optimising the amount of water applied to your crop, and delivering it the most efficient way, large energy and water savings can flow.
Tip 4. Plan for efficiency
Up to 80 per cent of the lifetime cost of a pump can be the energy bill after you buy it so think about the 10-year running cost rather than just the purchase price. Research the most efficient models on the market so you can make a cost-effective decision if you need to act quickly.
Tip 5. Consider renewables
Solar panels are proving to be cost effective where most of the energy can be used on site at the time it is generated. Solar hot water systems can be cost-effective and batteries and renewable technologies are improving and getting cheaper.
Find out more
The Energy Savers website includes case studies from farms that are reducing energy costs at www.qff.org.au/newsroom/case-studies/.
The Energy Savers programs have been delivered by Ergon Energy in partnership with the Queensland Farmers’ Federation and are funded by the Queensland Government.