See the separate “Renewable energy”,” Biofuels” and “Fuels and lubricants” chapters
Energy is indispensable to the modern economy. Without it, all plans for growth and prospects for jobs come to nothing. An unreliable nature of electricity supply is one cause for lacklustre growth in any economy.
There are many applications in the agricultural value chain which require a constant, uninterrupted flow of electricity (under the next heading several of these are set out). A disruption of power at an operation like an abattoir is not only inconvenient but can lead to much suffering.
Not only the availability of power but the pricing is important. Year-on-year double digit price increases over the past decade have squeezed margins and the threatened the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. Agriculture has called on government and ESKOM to change its mindset about energy.
Two positives from the energy challenge are the resulting integration with neighbouring states that arise out of energy corridors, and the attention that is being given to renewables. Increasing the supply from private co-generation would be an effective way to alleviate the constraints (OECD, 2015). Although its Independent Power Producer Programme attracted billions of rand investment, the country's progress with this option has been frustrating.
2. Energy-smart farming
As a farmer you are a businessman, someone who is just as concerned about keeping operational costs under control as you are about your fields, crops and cattle.
As a farmer, you also know that energy costs are rising and adding significantly to operating costs. Controlling these costs means becoming more aware of energy and the ways you can use electricity more effectively without compromising your farm’s productivity.
By making small changes to the way you use power, you can ensure that you get the best value for your “energy rand” and also play a part in reducing the demand for power – especially in peak periods when the possibility of load shedding is always present.
You can make a start on effective power saving by looking at your operation and assessing the equipment you use and the tasks you use it for.
Getting optimum performance from dryers
If you use dryers on your farm, remember that they can be shut down during the drying process, or can even be switched off completely. Alternatively, heating elements can be switched off and only the fans left running. Fans can be switched off for short periods without causing damage to produce such as grains, oil seeds and lucerne in the dryer. Only use the heating elements in the case of emergencies, for example during continuously rainy days and at night during the off-peak hours. When using heat, it is essential to recirculate the heated air to the inlet of the fan as this will save energy and costs.
When heating elements are used, it is advisable to insulate the ducting to minimise heat loss through the sides. It is vital that there should be no leaks in the ducting.
Making it less costly means that you should match the pipe and nozzle sizes. You should also remember that pipes with a small diameter operate at higher friction levels. More electricity is therefore needed to increase the rate of water delivery and overcome the friction.
The nozzle sizes of sprayers should be checked on a regular basis. If you reduce the wear and tear, you reduce water losses due to leaking pipes. Leaking pipes mean that pumps have to deliver more water and this increases the electricity consumption. By carrying out regular maintenance, you benefit from reduced power costs and water savings.
Using cellphone and computer technology could result in major savings. It’s a fact that if you use these methods to schedule irrigation, you can save up to 30% of the energy you generally use. Making sure that water is pumped to storage dams above irrigated areas means that you can use gravity flow, even when power is not available.
Electric motors consume vast amounts of power. The older your motors are, the higher the chances are that they use more electricity than they should. You can reduce your bills significantly by replacing these motors with new generation “high efficiency” electric motors (Eff 1). Make sure that the motors you install can run at 3/4 of their capacity to perform everyday jobs. Running at full load for long periods requires much more power.
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