Making better use of energy


23 October 2023
Keeping store costs down is a key challenge for the potato industry, so we take a closer look at an innovation that re-purposes power.

WITH energy costs being one of the key challenges currently faced by those in the potato industry, anything that can make life easier and more resourceful during storage is worth taking a closer look at.

Crop Systems Limited’s ‘SmartSola’ system is an exciting innovation launched at exactly the right time.

The system enables users to make optimal use of their use of home-generated energy, while minimising their use of bought-in power, reducing their exposure to high energy costs.

‘SmartSola’ monitors the energy generated from all sources – solar power, hydro, wind or biomass – and then deploy it to optimum benefit across up to 10 stores.

The system monitors and manages all aspects of the store’s energy use, something appreciated by Philip Smith, owner of Monkton Court Farm, near Ramsgate, Kent.

He installed ‘SmartSola’ across the 3,500 tonne stores built by Crop Systems Limited.

He said these have performed excellently over the past five years, enabling him to keep potatoes in ‘just harvested’ condition, while achieving low running costs thanks to innovative equipment such as glycol fridges.

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That performance is being further improved by ‘SmartSola’, he says: “We use around 300,000 kWh of electricity every year across our four stores. With energy costs having risen so much, we need to ensure we make best use of home-produced solar energy as possible. SmartSola has helped us achieve this aim by intelligently controlling our store run times. Stores are switched on in sequence as the solar energy becomes available.

“On many days, our stores run entirely on the energy generated by our own solar panels, which avoids the cost of imported energy completely.

“We normally store crops at 2.7oC with a 0.2oC differential, so when the solar panels are producing enough power in the day, we take the opportunity to over-cool to 2.5oC.

“Then if the next day is dull and the panels cannot produce enough power, we can avoid using mains electricity because the energy we need to run the store is effectively stored in the potatoes.

“The programme offers a great deal of flexibility, allowing the store manager to prioritise stores or set different parameters for each store. It has worked extremely well for us and has become an important tool in our store management”.

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