Dairy farmers with a 100-cow herd can save €400 /year on electricity by installing Variable Speed Drive (VSD) Vacuum Pumps in their parlours, an energy webinar has heard.
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It was one of the findings outlined at the West Kerry Dairy Farmers’ Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) online event.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has established a dedicated SEC network to help communities to understand energy use and learn how to make savings.

It encourages communities to work together to develop a sustainable energy system, using renewable energy, where feasible, and to develop smart energy solutions.

Around 100 dairy farmers on the Dingle Peninsula are part of the SEC which commissioned DCSix Technologies to develop an energy master plan (EMP).

The webinar heard that a draft EMP is being submitted to the SEAI, with the final plan due by June 2022.

Energy use

As part of the draft plan, DCSix Technologies provided questionnaires to farmers in the SEC on their current energy use.

Barry Banbury, operations manager with the company, said that an energy audit was also carried out on nine farms along the peninsula to examine methods to improve efficiency.

He said that this is the first SEC and EMP for an Irish dairy community and it is hoped the findings could be used in other parts of the country.

Based on the questionnaire with farmers in the SEC, tractor diesel accounted for 52% of energy use, followed by electricity and oil.

Barry Bambury noted that the total energy spend for the SEC in a year was €753,121.

He said that 100,000 trees would be needed to offset the 2,200t of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by the small community.

The survey found no significant penetration of micro-generation of renewable energy, i.e. solar PV; there were just two installations of solar thermal in the community.

It was pointed out that 43% of the milking parlours in the SEC have south facing roofs and the vast majority of the farmers surveyed use plate coolers in their parlours.

29% of parlours had VCS vacuum pumps and 8% had heat recovery installed, which reduces water heating costs.

48% of parlours were using electricity to heat water and 33% of had LED lighting in place, which can cut lighting bills by 40%.


The webinar heard that a VSD vacuum pump for a 100-cow herd is up to 50% more efficient and can save farmers €400/year.

The cost of the technology is around €5,000, with payback within eight years, if the available grant aid is not applied for.

Heat recovery systems involve an investment of around €5,500 with the potential to recover up to €700 every year; payback for the system can be achieved within seven years, without the inclusion of available grant aid.

The system also offers the potential to provide heat for a nearby dwelling house.

Barry Banbury said that if all of the farmers in the SEC installed VSD vacuum pumps, 140MWh of electricity, or 49t of CO2 would be saved.

If all farmers in the community installed heat recovery, 350MWh or 123t of CO2 would be saved, he said.

If 70% of the community installed solar microgeneration, 400MWh of electricity would be generated.

He also said that a 1MW solar farm would generate 936MWh of green electricity.

The overall goal of the energy masterplan is to set a realistic target where the community can be by 2030, Banbury said.

He said that once the masterplan is submitted then it will be up to the community to take actions to reduce energy consumption.

The webinar heard that west Kerry makes up less than 0.5% of the national dairy herd.

“These are the type of projects that the dairy community needs to look at; there is a lot of pressure at the moment about herd size.

“These are the kind of things that farmers can do to reduce the impact on the environment while continuing to produce milk in the most sustainable way possible,” Banbury concluded.

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