Major areas of on farm energy use include heating, ventilation, and lighting, produce cooling and drying, farm vehicles and other energy consuming equipment. However, reducing energy consumption can be very simple and save you money. Simple actions that produce quick returns such as turning off lights after use can reduce farm energy costs by an average of 10-20% - increasing business competitiveness as well as helping the environment. The first step to increasing the energy efficiency of the business is to be able to measure the energy that is being used on farm - the biggest source of energy will almost always be electricity but gas and fuels such as oil and diesel should also be reviewed. Finally, energy consumption needs to be managed by reviewing the price paid for the energy used and taking steps to reduce the amount of energy used.
Against a background of rapidly rising fuel costs, the production of renewable energy on farm could provide a new, environmentally sound income stream as well as providing heat and power to farmhouses, outbuildings and glasshouses etc. Common types of renewable energy include passive solar, solar heating and solar (photovoltaic) power, wind energy, biomass fuelled from wood or energy crops, ground source heat pumps, small scale hydropower and anaerobic digestion to produce energy from farm wastes.
Farmers considering energy production should research the financial viability and energy payback of different technologies to find the most cost-effective resources, renewable energy systems are never constant and vary in production level so the broader the mix of renewable energy sources used the more reliable the system will be. Technologies can be expensive to install but payback can be surprisingly quick, in many cases you would get a lower financial return from money in a bank than you would by investing in renewable technologies.
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