Many potato store operators could make significant savings in energy costs if they obtained more usage data to make informed decisions, according to Ray Andrews of Crop Systems Limited in the UK.
During an interview with Potato Review magazine, he said: “I don’t think many operators realise how much energy prices vary, or how frequently in any 24-hour period they change. Bear in mind that peak energy prices are often three times higher than off-peak rates,” he said. “And these things are not fixed. I am sure many people don’t know how frequently suppliers change their pricing structures and timings.”
Many farmers assume their local farmer co-operative will provide the best price, but Ray said he’d worked with farmers paying 13.5% less by dealing direct with the energy company.
“Our advice would be to look beyond the headline ‘unit cost’ and work out the cost, including things like the capacity charge, renewal obligation, feed-in-tariff, reactive power charge, forecast charge, operational charge, data collection charge, administration, and climate levy. Having that day-to-day control is now imperative,” he said.
Ray recommended using a control system, such as Crop Systems’ SmartStor, and said it is important to also make sure parts of the store equipment that consume energy are working efficiently.
While high capacity fans are required to dry and cure crops, or to blast them if they come in wet, the key to efficient energy use is to know how far you can slow them down at other times of the year. If fans are run at 80% of their capacity, they use half the energy than at full speed, Ray said.