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Lowering the Cost of Hot Water on Dairy Farms

A new energy research project at the Teagasc Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, aims to reduce the Irish dairy farmers’ electricity consumption and hence their carbon footprint.

Evaluation of new technology such as the use of more efficient cooling technology for milk tanks, solar panels, heat pumps and variable speed vacuum and milk pumps is underway in both laboratory and field experiments.

In an article in TResearch, Teagasc’s science magazine, researcher John Upton explained that an adequate and reliable supply of hot water is an essential element in the production of high quality milk on any dairy farm. “Energy audits carried out by Teagasc in 2009 identified water heating as one of the major consumers of electricity, accounting for over 30 per cent of total energy used on dairy farms. The most common method of providing hot water on dairy farms is electrical water heating, with oil fired boilers also popular on larger dairies,” explained John Upton.

“The Energy Audit showed the importance of using night rate electricity. It also showed that an oil fired water heating system was cheaper to run than electrical heating systems. The price of kerosene would have to increase by one third from today’s prices to match the cost of the electrical heating system. The oil fired system also emitted less CO2 compared to the electrical system, but there was a higher capital investment involved,” he added.

The Teagasc energy research programme aims to promote a more efficient energy approach to dairy farming, which in the longer term will result in lower energy input costs. Farmers are urged to give serious consideration, not only to the initial purchase costs but also to running costs and environmental impact.