An energy audit on Sue and Ryan Anglin’s 300-cow Arkansas dairy showed a three-year payback for a plate cooler.
Energy audits can save thousands
Energy savings are the gift that keeps on giving. Once you make the change to more energy-efficient equipment, the savings keep coming—month after month, year after year.
An energy audit of your dairy is the place to start. "You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there," says Allen Dusault, director of the Farm Smart and Farm Energy Efficiency projects for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "An energy audit pinpoints the exact location and amount of energy [electricity, propane, natural gas and diesel] being used inside the dairy. That’s the first step to savings."
The audit also assesses where savings are possible and which changes will provide the fastest payback, and thus where to prioritize your efforts.
"Any dairy that plans to be in business over the next five years needs to do an energy audit," says Ryan Anglin of Bentonville, Ark. Anglin, who milks 300 cows with his sons, Cody and Casey, has the first dairy in his state to do an energy audit.
Anglin’s audit, done by EnSave, Inc., identified three areas for improvement:
- A plate cooler, with a potential three-year payback.
- New lighting. "Right now, only LED lighting is approved for cost share in Arkansas because they did a lot of poultry barn audits. LEDs are the lighting of choice for poultry barns," Anglin says. "But in 2013, we’ll have a multitude of choices, and high-intensity fluorescent light will work better for us."
- A scroll compressor to cool milk. These relatively new compressors use a spiral process that discharges fully pressurized refrigerant, and offer savings of 15% to 25% over conventional piston compressors. But they are more expensive, often with a payback of up to nine years.
But that’s the beauty of a professionally done audit, Anglin says. It gives the producer an idea of where to place priorities and where to make investments.
While energy costs typically are just 4% to 5% of a dairy farm’s total operating budget, they still run into thousands of dollars in annual costs.
"Energy efficiency is one operational cost that dairy producers can take steps to control," says Rebecca MacLeod, national energy liaison for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
If you assume an average usage of 500 kwh per cow and an 8¢ per kilowatt hour average cost, the electric bill for a 500-cow dairy can easily reach $20,000 per year. A 3,000-cow dairy might consume $120,000 of energy annually.
On a typical dairy, about a fourth of the energy goes for milk cooling, another fourth for ventilation, 35% for milking and lighting, and the remainder for water pumping and various other needs.
EnSave, a national energy auditing firm that has done thousands of on-farm audits, has found that adoption of energy-conserving technology offers potential savings of 10% to 35%. For the 500-cow dairy, that’s $2,000 to $7,000 annually. For the 3,000-cow dairy, it means savings of $12,000 to $42,000 or more.
- November 2012