Dairy energy efficiency grants to open for applications next week

A new batch of energy efficiency grants for dairy farmers is being made available by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the authority has revealed.

For dairy farmers who are considering replacing their vacuum pump where the existing pumps are old, or new dairy units are being considered, the SEAI is set to launch its dairy farm grants next week to follow on from last year’s pilot.

The grant offers farmers an option to reduce the financial burden involved in upgrading their vacuum pump or milk pump.

It provides an “ideal opportunity” for farmers to liaise with equipment manufacturers and select the most energy-efficient pump type available for the upgrade, according to the SEAI.

While difficult to justify replacement on energy savings alone, particularly on small farms, the incentive helps to alleviate the costs involved.

Once the farm size goes up to 250 to 300 cows or over then that’s when the large savings are made and then the farmer can justify the complete replacement on energy savings alone, the authority claims.

Because of this, the average farm size in the pilot was over 200 cows producing in the region of one million litres or over per annum. At this scale the annual saving would be about €2,500 per annum.

Benefits

Due to the reduced electrical consumption, the higher initial purchase cost of an alternative with variable speed drive (VSD) controls can apparently be recouped over time due to the electricity savings they offer.

Additional benefits using the VSD system include lower maintenance costs due to reduced run hours, reduced oil usage, and lower noise levels which many farmers cited as very beneficial.

The milk pump VSD grant will also be available in the next round of funding. The VSD with controls help to maximise the cooling efficiency of a plate cooler if installed and reduce the load on the milk cooling system, saving on electricity.

Feedback from one farmer in the pilot indicated he was constantly checking is milk cooler as the unit was not operating when he expected it to be – thinking it was broken – when in fact it did not need to run as the plate cooler was providing all the cooling.

Available grant levels for 2018:

Source: SEAI

Recognising the fact that the financial return is as good on smaller farms using single phase electricity, the SEAI have increased the funding by €500 to €5,000 for this category.

In addition, a new level of grant is being offered as an alternative option where a farmer does not want a complete system replacement – for example where the vacuum pump is new therefore on smaller farms.

This grant will cover the retrofitting of existing systems with variable speed controllers only.

However, the authority has warned that not all vacuum pumps lend themselves to operating effectively at slow speeds so this should only be considered once the supplier has established that the pump can work efficiently at slow speeds.

Any farmer interested can email [email protected] or check the SEAI website to download the guides and forms.