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.

Introduction

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

Switching electricity suppliers is one of the quickest ways of reducing your costs.  Ring around or go online to check the deals available from alternative suppliers.

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.

There are several different types of heating controllers but essentially they all regulate and help to control the temperature of your heating and ultimately your heating costs. This applies whether it’s your farm house, your piggery or poultry house.

You can save up to 80% by picking the right lighting for the job. LEDs are the most efficient. For example, replacing a 500-watt halogen flood light with a 150 LED lamp will save €128 a year, and it lasts 100 times longer.

Better controls, more efficient air movement and less reliance on mechanical systems can all help to save money on ventilation costs. Make sure that fans and ducts are regularly maintained and kept clean to maximise efficiency

Choosing a correctly sized Plate Heat Exchanger can reduce your energy costs for cooling milk by up to 50%, which can give a saving of €9/cow/year.

Use of water to pre-cool the milk before it enters the tank will save about 30% of milk cooling costs – an energy saving of €5/cow/year.

Install a variable speed drive to the vacuum pump in the milking parlour. It can give you a 60% reduction in pump running costs, equivalent to €4/cow/year.

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:

 

 

Research Projects

Use some of the top tips to start a research project

Switch Suppliers

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.

Insulation

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

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.

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Dairy Farmer Grant