Dairy farmers could save up to €1,800 per year on electricity costs by making simple changes to their farm equipment, according to a Teagasc energy use survey.
More than €500 of those savings could be made just by changing their electricity supplier – at absolutely no cost to the farmer – Moorepark researcher John Upton told the inaugural National Agricultural Energy Efficiency Conference on Thursday.
Dairy farms are among the highest farm users of electricity, which will increase in price by 30pc between 2012 and 2020.
Mr Upton is behind the Irish branch of a European-wide Dairyman study, which aims to create a more competitive dairy sector and improve ecological performance in dairy regions.
As part of the study, Mr Upton analysed the electricity consumption on 22 commercial dairy farms in Ireland, averaging 76ha in size and milking on average 118 cows.
He found that the average cost of electricity per litre of milk produced on the farms was 0.51c/l or €2,875 per year.
However, he also found massive variation between electricity on farms, with some at 0.26c/l while others paid up to 0.89c/l.
The researcher advised farmers to use cost comparison websites like www.bonkers.ie to make sure they are getting the best possible rate.
"When I looked at the Dairyman farms that were paying most for their electricity, I found they could save up to €800 per year simply by switching their electricity supplier," he told delegates at the energy efficiency conference, which was organised by Teagasc and supported by the Farming Independent, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Macra na Feirme.
Switching to night-rate electricity is another way for dairy farmers to save significant amounts on their bills.
"Night-rate electricity costs just €0.085 per kilowatt hour, compared to day-rate costing," Mr Upton explained. "Installation is free and there is a very small standing charge of about €10.
"The average farm using 40pc day rate for heating water would save €170 per year by heating the water on night-rate only," he added.
Other tactics that could be employed on dairy farms to save on electricity costs include installing solar panels for water heating, adding variable speed drive (VSD) controls to the vacuum pump and improving plate cooling systems.
However, Mr Upton said the savings on electricity cost by investing in new equipment would have to be balanced against the payback time for the cost of the equipment.
Solar panels, VSD units and plate coolers have a payback time of seven to 10 years, depending on the individual farm.
- Caitriona Murphy