Everyone in the community today is affected to some extent by the increasing cost of energy.
Increasing electricity and fuel cost affect everyone directly when they pay their power bill or fill up their car, and indirectly through increased cost of goods and services.
Farming is heavily affected by rising energy costs which can have a big impact on profitability and viability.
Energy cost comprise an average of about 10 per cent of farm costs with the intensive industries which use energy for heating, cooling, ventilation and pumping, much worse affected.
In recent years, energy efficiency gains in agriculture have not been keeping up with those of other sectors such as construction and building services.
These sectors have invested heavily in new technology and seen impressive gains.
The good news is there are options available for farmers to become more efficient users of energy or generate their own with solar, wind or bio-energy.
Cost savings through improving efficiency or on-farm generation can make a big difference to the viability of a farm business.
Tremendous progress has been made in recent years with the latest generation of equipment usually being much more efficient than older models.
A new tractor can be 20pc more fuel efficient than a 10 year old machine.
Similarly the latest generation of heating, cooling and air-conditioning equipment can be dramatically more efficient than older gear.
Another aspect of energy efficiency is careful matching of equipment to the job required and ensuring that it is properly maintained.
Most equipment has an efficient operating range which will give optimum performance.
A good example of this is irrigation pumping systems where correct design matching the pump and the distribution system is essential.
Pumps also wear out, losing efficiency over time and need to be regularly inspected and maintained.
On-farm power generation can give a very good return on investment.
This may be as simple as installing solar panels on a shed to supplement grid power through to larger scale solar irrigation pumping installations on cropping properties.
Some intensive animal producers have also been very successful in developing bio-energy using shed effluent which have slashed energy cost and also reduced environmental pollution.
NSW Department of Primary Industries is supporting the development of more energy efficient farming systems through the Primary Industries Climate Change Research Strategy.
This program will work with industry to pilot new and innovative energy sources and will also be supported by a training program and resource materials developed by Tocal College.
- Contact Michael Cashen, research officer, Climate Unit, DPI Agriculture on (02) 6938 1849.