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Energy-efficient stores can save you £thousands

1 August 2011

Store managers with 1,000 tonnes of potatoes for the
 fresh market could save up to £1,600 a year with energy-efficient stores, says Tim Pratt of Farm Energy.

Tim was one of the principal researchers of the recently-published energy project Reducing the Energy Cost of Potato Storage, funded by the AHDB Potatoes. Some 36 potato stores, representing a typical cross section of GB stores, were studied by Farm Energy and Sutton Bridge CSR over three years and results collated and analysed.

“The least energy-efficient potato stores use up to three times as much energy than the best ones,” says Tim. “With each kWh costing about 8p, it is worthwhile monitoring consumption data that can be compared month-on-month or year-on-year.”
 
Tim recommends levy-payers benchmark the performance of their own stores, using the AHDB Potatoes ‘energy hub’ at www.potato.org.uk/energy  to access reports showing monthly consumption as kWh/tonne and efficiency measures such as average kWh/day/100 tonne for the current month or season to date.

 “Our results have demonstrated that well maintained, well managed older stores can be as efficient as those built in the last few years,” he continues. “Furthermore, investing £15,000 to refurbish insulation can be repaid in as little as five years.”

Tim assures levy-payers that energy monitoring need not be expensive. A simple analysis to work out kWh used/tonne/day can quickly highlight stores or periods when efficiencies fall.

Efficient storage facilities can open the door to financial gain from longer term storage, which can be more lucrative as stocks can be sold when spot market returns are good.

However, the message is not ‘reduce energy use at any cost’. Crop quality must not be compromised, but some energy saving measures can also help quality by reducing unnecessary use of air, which increases dehydration, and, in the case of inverters, by increasing the efficacy of sprout control treatments.

Although the research revealed significant potential to reduce storage costs, there were some results where stores did not quite perform according to expectations. A follow on trial (AHDB Potatoes project R439) will examine more of the underlying factors contributing to store efficiency, such as air leakage and fridge performance, so keep an eye out for the next wave of results.

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