Agricultural Science and Sustainability
Learn more about energy and sustainability in the agriculture industry. You will find lots of information here to support your Ag Science project at School.
For students studying Ag Science this page should give you some starting points for any project or research you are undertaking. The agriculture industry has a part to play in reducing Ireland’s emissions. There are many steps that can be taken.
Farms, like all businesses, can spend a significant amount of money on energy. Whether you are a dairy farmer, pig farmer, poultry farmer or even in horticulture, energy used for lighting, space heating, water heating and other areas such as milking, cooling and water pumping can make up a large proportion of operating costs.
Farmers can make their business more efficient and resilient to rising energy costs. Start by looking at how and when energy is used. Examine the low cost measures first and then move on to investments in new controls and other technologies.
Energy saving tips
What can famers do to reduce energy costs? Here are the top ten areas to focus on
Where are the major areas of energy use on your farm?
Walk around your farm and identify where energy is being used. Remember to check at different times of day, to account for variation between day and evening/night time use. Prepare a checklist and look at lighting, heating systems, ventilation, water heating, and milk cooling and pumps if appropriate. Monitor over a period of a week so that you get accurate average figures
Adding or improving your insulation can have a significant impact on the energy costs and comfort in both homes and farm buildings. For example, upgrading loft insulation in the family home from 100mm to 300mm will save €250 a year on a typical annual bill of €1600. SEAI offers grants to insulate your home, as well as grants to upgrade home heating solutions, see www.seai.ie. Check on the status of your hot water tank insulation too: upgrading this could save you €130 a year.
Consider getting a new boiler or heat pump if your existing one is old: a modern condensing boiler can reduce energy bills by 25% and save €400 a year in a typical farm house. Alternatively, regularly servicing your boiler can save as much as €160 on a typical annual heating costs of €1600.
And don’t forget the simple things: bleeding radiators, checking boiler timers and setting your heating controls to a comfortable temperature.
Once you have taken steps to minimise your energy use through energy efficiency measures, the next step is to consider using some renewable energy system e.g. solar panels for water heating or wood chip/pellet boiler for space heating. As well as reducing emissions like CO2, they are cheaper to run and offer significant cost savings.
For more information on renewable energy:
- Review the current key renewable energy statistics
- Read the factsheet Energy and Climate Action Use Clean Renewable Energy
SEAI Energy Academy
Energy efficiency in agriculture
This is a free e-learning module for the agriculture sector on the SEAI Energy Academy.
Developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, this tailored module is aimed at helping farms reduce their energy related costs.
Between 8% and 15% of a farm’s overhead expenses are spent on energy every year. By working through this module students will gain a better understanding of what actions can be taken on a farm to reduce energy costs and in turn emission. You will need to sign up to the Energy Academy to access this module.Sign up to the energy academy
Use some of the top tips to start a research project
Make a list of all energy suppliers. Review what they charge for energy and what incentive if any they offer for you to switch. Compile a spreadsheet of each on to see which might be the best.
Do a survey of all the buidlings on the farm and what insulation they have. Do some research on different types of insulation and see what might be suitable to use and the cost to install it.
Heating and Hot Water
Review the current heating and hot water system in terms of age, efficiency and your costs. Is an upgrade needed? Create a table of heating system options, costs and the benefits of changing.
Bioenergy is anything that can decompose or is organic in its origin. It is a broad sector and it can be used in some form or another in the heat, electricity and transport sectors. Typically the main sectors in bioenergy are:
- solid biomass (wood chip, pellet, forestry residues),
- wastes (farm, food etc) which are utilised in an Anaerobic Digestion plant to create biogas/biomethane
- energy crops which can go on and create biofuels amongst other things.
Check out SEAI's webpage on Biomass
Any business needs to examine if biomass is a suitable energy source for them.
Check out SEAI’s webpage on solid biomass. You can review all the options, look at a cost calculator as well as the best practice.
Learn about the story of bioenergy and what SEAI are doing in this area.
School Tour Option
Green Generation is a Kildare-based company, using anaerobic digestion to convert agricultural and food waste to renewable energy. They were the winner of the Innovative Deployment of Renewable Energy awards at the 2020 SEAI Energy Awards.
They welcome school tours to their plant. Visit their website for more informtaion and contact details.
- Case study on bioenergy use in a Kelly’s Hotel
- Blog on the farming grant (note this grant is no longer available)
- Teagasc fact sheets on energy in agriculture
- IFA’s Smart Farming initiative