Rising electricity costs and current supply issues continue to put pressure on the agriculture sector and the South African economy. Any farm (regardless of size) can implement energy efficiency (EE) measures to lower operating costs.

How to implement EE is the next question. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is your household, farm or company using more electricity than it needs?
  • Are your staff members aware of ways to implement EE that will save money?
  • Do you monitor your electricity consumption?
  • Are rising electricity prices reducing your profits?

The information below can help you with the initial steps to make your farm, pack house, cold store and shed more energy efficient.

  • Does the property have geysers that work with solar heating?
    • Solar water heaters use the sun to heat water. A solar-powered geyser can reduce your water heating electricity demand by up to 50%.
    • Farm houses, dairies and worker houses can all be equipped with these highly efficient geysers.
  • Is there a timer on the geyser?
    • Geyser timers are devices which are installed onto geysers and function by switching the geyser on and off at specified times to only provide hot water when needed. These measures can save up to 30% on electricity bills. The timer should be set to ensure the geyser is off during peak hours.
  • Does the building have insulated ceilings?
    • Insulated ceilings help to keep buildings warm in winter and cool in summer. This can reduce your dependency on heaters, fans and air conditioners and thereby reduce your indoor heating and cooling cost.
  • Do you use energy efficient lighting? (CFL or LED)
    • Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LED's) use 75% or less power than old incandescent bulbs, and last much longer. LEDs are even more efficient than CFLs, and last 130 times longer than CFL bulbs. 
  • Can windows be opened in each room of farm and workers houses?
    • Windows that open and close properly make houses more energy efficient, maintain good indoor air quality and creates a comfortable living environment. A room with windows that cannot open is likely to need air conditioning which requires more energy, at a cost.
  • When closed, do all the doors and windows seal properly to keep warm/cold air in or out?
    • In particular, cold room doors must be checked regularly to ensure they still seal properly.
    • If all doors and windows seal properly in winter it helps to conserve energy when extra heating such as a heater or fireplace is used.

We include more general electricity saving tips below, not mentioned above. Also visit Eskom's site on energy saving for agriculture.

  • Feed processing plants usually have large numbers of electric motors. The installation of a capacitor bank can improve the electrical efficiency of your plant.
  • Buildings should not be wider than 12m when using natural ventilation for optimum wind cooling.
  • Check filters and coils regularly.
  • Dual fuel systems are generally used for heating air or water in a heating system
  • Match the pipe with the nozzle sizes. You should also remember that pipes with a small diameter operate at higher friction levels. More electricity is therefore needed.
  • The nozzle sizes of sprayers should be checked regularly. Leaking pipes mean that pumps have to deliver more water and this will increase the electricity consumption. Regularly check for water leakage.
  • If you use cell phone and computer technology to schedule irrigation, you can save up to 30% of the energy you generally use.

Taking all the above information in consideration, an energy efficiency audit could be a great way to identify areas where energy efficiency can be achieved. Sometimes, quite small changes can result in large savings over the long term, with relatively low upfront costs.

Once you have completed an energy efficiency audit on your farm, the next step will be to implement the recommendations of the audit, in order to realize the benefits and start saving on your bills. Once your farm has become energy smart, you may consider the next step: Renewables, such as solar power or bioenergy (see renewable energy).

To find out more about implementing EE please contact us at GreenCape or visit the useful links below:

Winetech Energy Management Guidelines Short

Winetech Energy Management Guidelines Long

NCPC Energy Efficiency Services

GreenCape Energy Efficiency

NBI

Eskom Energy Advice for Agriculture

Eskom Energy Efficiency Advice (electric motors)

Loadshedding Schedule

A comprehensive guide to alternative energy options for winemakers