After an energy audit of his business, apple grower and packer Ian Cathels of Ardrossan Batlow Apples, NSW, has implemented some energy-saving measures that have significantly reduced his electricity costs.
Last year, KMH Environmental conducted energy audits in 30 fruit production businesses across Australia as part of APAL’s Watts in Your Business program to identify ways that fruit growers could save energy.
NSW apple grower and packer Ian Cathels of Ardrossan Batlow Apples had one of those energy audits done in his packing shed and orchard.
“We always wanted to get solar panels but we could never get the right information to be confident in what we were doing,” explains Ian.
“The audit process identified the areas where we could improve our efficiency of electricity use. It was then a matter of looking through the results and trying to implement the measures suggested in the best way that we could.
“The solar cells on the roof and the power factor correction unit were the ones we identified as the prime ones to do first of all.”
At Ardrossan Batlow Apples they produce and pack around 4,000 tonnes of apples every year. From March 2013 to February 2014 the pack house and cold stores consumed over 488,000 kWh of electricity at a cost of approximately $138,000.
Through the audit, Ian discovered that while the cool rooms used a lot of energy – particularly when the newly harvested and hot fruit from the orchard is first brought into the cool rooms – they were not using as much energy as he thought and the packing shed was using more.
“The cool rooms use the most electricity when you are pulling down the temperature to get the field heat out of the fruit,” says Ian. “But what we found was that they are not actually using as much power as we thought, because once they have been pulled down to temperature and together with the insulation, they are working quite well.
“The packing shed is probably using a little more power than we realised – and that’s where the solar is helping us out. We use most of our power during the day, which is the most efficient way of using solar.”
Ian has now installed a 50 kilowatt solar system of more than 200 panels on his packing shed, replaced three meter boards with one and installed a power factor correction unit.
While a big up-front cost initially, Ian has calculated that the investment in all the energy-saving measures he has taken will deliver more in savings than putting the money in the bank.
“Last month’s power bill was half what it was last year,” says Ian. “I’m hoping that between implementing the solar and the new switch board it will pay back the cost in four years.
“Hopefully we’ll get a good 20 years out of the panels and if everything keeps going the way it is, we can get another set of panels and reduce our electricity costs even more.”
Their overall energy consumption has gone down around 15 per cent, their maximum demand (which determines about half of their electricity costs) has gone down by 28 per cent, and, coupled with changing prices, they have seen a 25 per cent reduction in their overall electricity costs.
More information on the Watts in Your Business program and ways to reduce energy use is available on the APAL website.
Many thanks to Ian for sharing his story and hosting a visit by APAL to his packing shed.
APAL’s Watts in Your Business program was funded under the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Grants program and the energy audits were conducted by KMH Environmental.
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