Energy Efficiency in Agriculture

Question:  How can I save cost on energy?

Answer:  Cost savings on energy can be achieved in two ways:  1. Pay less for the energy by using a more suitable tariff structure, and 2. Use the energy more efficiently i.e. do more with less energy.


Question:  What is a more suitable tariff structure?

Answer:  The utility supplier (Eskom or the municipality) has different tariff structures.  These tariffs are based on different cost components based on a period (e.g. days), or consumption as measured in kWh, or maximum demand as measured in kVA.  By selecting the most appropriate tariff structure for his needs, the farmer can manage the energy use and time periods and thereby reduce the total cost paid for the electricity per kWh used.


Question:  How do I know where (and how much) electricity can be saved?

Answer:  This question has different answers for different places.  The best way is to conduct an energy survey (aka energy audit) so that a complete analysis can be made on the major energy consumers and opportunities for energy savings at the facilities.  An action plan is normally supplied as part of the survey report to guide the implementation of savings in a structured way.  The survey can be repeated at a later stage to identify the next cycle of savings.  This is a continuous improvement process.  Trained specialists in energy management are available to conduct such a survey for your unique circumstances.


Question:  What are the major energy users on a farm?

Answer:  Energy consumption depends on the rate of energy use (kW) and the duration of use (time).  A small machine running 24 hours 7 days a week will consume more energy than a larger machine that is only used for a few hours a week.  Typical large energy users are cold storage or cooling facilities, heating equipment and water pumps.  Look out for equipment that runs during the night and on weekends – the longer time periods means more energy consumption.  The energy survey as mentioned in the previous question will identify the large energy users at your facility, which may differ from other locations depending on the size of equipment and the duration of use.


Question:  How much energy savings are possible?

Answer:  Previous energy surveys in agricultural applications has shown that energy savings between 10% and 40% are possible.   These surveys were part of the IEE project of the NCPC-SA and the PSEE project of the NBI.  Cost savings can be achieved by improved management of the tariff structures, while energy consumption savings were identified on applications such as irrigation pumps, cold stores, packing lines, heating, drying tunnels, buildings, fans, compressed air and also diesel use on farms.  These are very technical solutions and trained specialists are available with dedicated measuring equipment to assist in energy saving solutions.


Question:  What is a VSD and how can it save energy on a water pump?

Answer:  A VSD (variable speed drive) is a piece of equipment used to change the speed of an electrical motor.  In situations where the water pump supplies too much pressure or flow, a VSD is used to reduce the speed for optimal flow or pressure.  Less energy is required at lower speeds and thus the saving.  Please note that lower pump speed also results in less pressure and less water flow.  In applications where less pressure or flow is not required, a VSD will not contribute to power savings.


Renewable Energy in Agriculture

Question: What type of renewable energy is there that I can use on my farm?


1. Solar Energy: Energy generated from the sun.

2. Wind Energy: Energy generated from wind.

3. Waste to Energy: Energy generated from a bio-gas digester.

4. Hydro Energy: Energy generated from the flow of water.

These are the main ones available.


Question: What does solar energy (photovoltaic or PV) cost compared to grid electricity and what is a normal payback period?

Answer: The question seems simple and easy to answer, but in fact it is a bit more complicated. The cost of solar energy and the payback period of a solar installation to generate electricity depend on the company from which you buy it. Each company has got it's own tariffs.

The company can therefore calculate the payback period.

Contact us for a list of pv installation companies. 


Question: What steps must I take to get pv installed?


1. Get a energy efficiency audit done of your property. This can be done by yourself or by a credited company. Some renewable energy companies will do an assessment free of charge to see if an installation will be worth it.

2. Decide which company to work with. Make sure it is a credible company that you can walk the distance with.

3. Get your finance in order.

4. Commit to a price and make sure they give it to you on black and white.

5. Go ahead with installation.


For any help with this contact us for assistance.