For almost every dairy farm there are savings opportunities.  Often it’s hard to know where to start and which actions will have the best impact for effort.  Below are some questions we are often asked and will hopefully provide you with some thought-starters.

How much should I be paying?

Chasing good rates can be a challenge, but for some it can be a quick win.   The offers change with the wind.  And, despite seeing well over 1,000 different accounts I still can’t work out why some people receive better prices.

Which provider offers the best rates?

They all vary.  Unfortunately, it depends on which retailer you speak with at the time and how much they are willing to move.   Here is an example of two recent bills from two different clients.  The tariff rates are inclusive of all charges (e.g. net work, market, environmental) and discounts.  They exclude demand charges, so, it is the price you pay for each kWh consumed.  The key message is to keep an eye on your rates and do a ring around at least once or twice a year.

Energy comparison

We want to make the effort and take control of energy on our farm as we see this as the next “get” to improving our bottom line.  What  should we do first?

The best place to start is to identify where the energy goes and quantify how much  is used.

Then we need to look at clever ways to reduce energy waste – as the biggest savings come from not wasting energy – and reducing demand.  An energy  audit is helpful in this context.

I am installing a new plate cooler.  Should I slow down the milk flow or ensure that the water flow rate is correct.

The first thing to do is ensure that the plate cooler is correctly sized.  It should cater to the maximum flow rate of milk.  Secondly, the flow rate of water should be as stated on the specification plate, usually 2 – 3 times the max flow rate of milk.   For example, if the milk flow peaks at 3,000 L/hr then the water flow rate should be 6,000 -9,000 L/hr depending on the design of the plate cooler.  If you have a double-up herringbone dairy the milk flow pattern can vary considerably and slowing down water flow rates can result in poor pre-cooling.

What about solar hot water heaters?  Are they better than say, heat pumps?

That’s tricky as it depends on where you live (geographic region of Australia), the orientation of your roof (the direction and angle of the collectors) and how you wish to measure “better”?  In the regions of good sun (north the Great Dividing Range) solar hot water heaters work really well – they can produce water at reasonable temperatures (>50 degrees) for most days in the year.  As you come further south the climatic factors change and their performance becomes less consistent.  The measurements I have taken over the years suggest that you can expect an average of around 40-45 degrees from a solar hot water service in the southern parts of Victoria.  Remember, this is an average figure.  During summer the temperatures may exceed 65 degrees and in winter on a cold and cloudy day you may see temperatures around 30 degrees.

Heat pumps are more consistent as they can deliver similar or slightly higher temperatures (~60 degrees) day or night.  They are 3-4 times more efficient than conventional dairy hot water heaters, so the cost of heating a litre of water is about a third as long as there is power.

You said that we should do other things first before we consider solar.  Why?  Isn’t solar our cheapest source of electricity?

The cheapest electricity is the electricity you don’t use.  For many dairies there are plenty of ways to reduce energy waste and to reduce demand.  This should be the first step – always.   On a global scale the IEA (International Energy Agency) keeps telling us that the cheapest way to reduce our energy costs is by reducing demand and improving energy efficiency, not building more and more power supplies.  The dairy is no different.   The trick is knowing what to do and what will give you the biggest bang for your effort and dollar.  Only then should you consider how you source your electricity.  People selling solar systems and people selling hot water services have a vested interest to sell these things.  There is nothing wrong in this.  And if they do their job right you can end up with a good outcome.  However, it takes time, effort, and expertise to get energy right in any business.  It is just like achieving excellent milk production.  You can’t do this by having the best genetics.  Solar, is only part of the jigsaw, not the whole picture.

The Clever Energy Workshop

For those dairy farms that are ready to take the next step, and to find out how The Clever Energy Program can help your farm deliver great savings, join us for The Clever Energy Workshop.

This workshop has been designed to focus specifically on the issues faced by dairy farms.  It is designed for those that want to take action on energy costs.

If you want to take action to reduce energy costs, make sound investment decisions, and reduce energy-related carbon emissions then this workshop is for you.  The groups are kept small so we can focus on your dairy and tailor the outcomes.

The workshop will provide participants with the tools to understand:

  • How to better read your electricity and gas bills
  • How to put simple measures in place to measure equipment performance
  • The systems needed to monitor progress

Each Farm will also leave the workshop with an action plan tailored to your farm needs and current  with tools to start implementing saving opportunities

INVESTMENT  $350 per farm.

If you would like to secure a place at our next Dairy Farm Assessment workshop please contact Gabriel Hakim.

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