Energy efficiency benefit aired at BPOA conference

Experts advise businesses they could make big savings by taking steps to improve efficiency.

Businesses stand to make big savings by adopting energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems, according to experts.

Bedding growers attending the technical seminar at this year's British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA) conference were told that cutting energy use by improving efficiency should be a primary concern.

Energy consultant Farm Energy commercial director Chris Plackett said: "Don't slip into thinking that you've done it all - you can always make improvements. It's hard work but it pays you back quickly."

Growers should check electricity meters to monitor energy use and benchmark energy performance to find where improvements can be made, he said.

Efficiency throughout the heating system should be considered, including the boiler and pipes. An old, poorly-maintained boiler would typically have 65 per cent efficiency, compared with 90 per cent for a new model. Uninsulated pipes could lose £50-£60 of heat each year and an insulating jacket could cut this.

Farm Energy technical director Tim Pratt added that growers could benefit from lower costs by investing in renewable energy systems, thanks to government subsidies such as Feed-in-Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

The payback was particularly good for those who currently burn oil because of its higher price, he noted.

"A biomass boiler is something to look at," he said. "There is a high cost but high returns. You need to look at longer-term contracts for supply of the fuel. If you want woodchip, you need a supplier tied in - you can't just order it."

Other options for growers included solar panels, wind turbines, and anaerobic digestion, said Pratt.

Lancaster University researcher Nigel Paul said LEDs had the potential to improve energy efficiency. "LEDs are easy to control and can be turned on or off or dimmed easily," he said.

"There is also an opportunity to exploit the links between biology and energy because you control the spectrum," he added. "By using the right colours you can design a lighting system to control growth."

Roundstone recycling - Nursery sets example on reducing costs

Nurseries could cut costs and help the environment by putting more focus on recycling, a grower has said.

Roundstone Nurseries in Chichester has a policy of collecting and recycling all waste cardboard and paper, and cleaning for re-use or recycling all its plastic and polystyrene trays used for growing plants. Waste compost and plants are also collected and recycled into soil conditioner and potting compost for use by amateur gardeners.

"The key thing is putting less in landfill," Roundstone Nurseries technical director Chris Need said. "It is good for business and the environment. We were paying £3,000 to get rid of our green waste and now we're paying nothing. Effectively it's now being sold as fertiliser."

Need advises working with suppliers. "Don't pay for transport and make sure that the waste is taken back by the supplier," he said.

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