Renewable energy offers lucrative income to potato growers


20 July 2020
Renewable energy offers lucrative income to potato growers

For many years, diversification has been key to success in agriculture here in the UK with the Government encouraging farms to diversify and look for additional income streams from non-agricultural sources. Some farmers have laid out golf courses on their land, others have opened farm parks attracting visitors to come and meet the livestock. Another way of achieving this is to take advantage of the land attaching to farming businesses and to utilise this to help with the generation of renewable energy which sees an income via the renewable heat incentive programme brought in by Government in April 2014.

The systems they design and supply are based on the installation of a Ground Source Heat Pump –(GSHP) – which requires a large area of ground that can be dug up and have the coils of pipe that gather the heat buried at a uniform depth to harvest the heat that is naturally occurring underground. This sees businesses generating renewable energy and being paid via a Government paid tariff for the kind of renewable energy it is, for seven years if a domestic renewable energy system and for 20 years if a commercial system.

It make sense to work with an expert organisation that has the track record of success with the scheme and the technical knowledge to help you install the kind of bespoke system that will work for your specific business and create the best possible return over twenty years.

Calibrate Energy Engineering, based in the North East, is a leading provider of intelligent ‘hands off’ commercial renewable energy systems, designed to provide maximum energy and cost savings for commercial businesses and to provide the best possible returns through the Government RHI tariffs.

The company has been installing commercial heat pump systems for 12 years and was recently recognised at the 2018 Highland Show with the Silver Innovation Award for their ‘Heat pump grain drier’ system that has been installed on a number of farms. It was also named as one of the UK Top 16 Emerging Engineering Companies for the Renewables sector as part of the 2017 Parliamentary review presented in the Houses of Parliament.

Calibrate has developed a modulised plantroom solution suitable for agricultural heating and chilling requirements, as well as for other commercial applications including hotels and leisure facilities of all kinds, supplying modulised heat pump solutions to the whole of the UK. The company has an expert team of engineers, scientists and consultants which gives Calibrate a commercial edge that is unique in the industry.

Whilst each system installed is individual to the needs of the business it is designed for – in the agricultural field for example, grain drying, dairy or  potato farming in particular - the heat pump system for the specific application is designed to manage the particular process. Calibrate’s heat pump systems are customised and manufactured in their workshops and delivered to site ready for installation on the farm and ready to use.

The brains behind all their renewable systems is a version of their unique bespoke controller which can operate the installation via a cloud-based system, enabling Calibrate to monitor all aspects of the process and tariff generation meters online.

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For example, a Heat Pump Grain Drying system uses heat naturally occurring in the ground that is gathered through buried coils that are filled with a liquid not unlike antifreeze. Then the heat ‘harvested’ is increased with a 350% efficient heat pump to the required heating output whilst earning the 20-year Government RHI tariff. A useful ‘free’ bi-product of the heat pump’s heating cycle is chilled water, and this can be used elsewhere on the farm, in this case, to dehumidify the recirculated air through the grain as well as chilling the grain to anywhere between 10 degrees C to 15 degrees C below ambient.

The systems are hugely flexible and allow for the energy generated to run various parts of the farming business. For example, in this case whilst one array can run the grain drying process, another array from the heat pump can service a farmhouse, and two cottages. Calibrate’s bespoke control solution enables Government tariffs to be maximised and the system can be easily integrated alongside other renewables on the farm.

On a dairy farm the system can be formatted to provide the hot water and chilling required for the processes required on the farm. Calibrate has installed a number of these systems successfully.

The heat from the GSHP is again increased with a 350% efficient heat pump to the required heating output. A by-product of the heat pump’s heating cycle is again chilled water. This is used to chill the milk through a one pass plate exchanger bringing the milk from 18°C to 3.5°C. Using this system, the milk is at storage temperature less than 5 minutes after leaving the cow. A normally costly process is therefore being achieved for free using the heating by-product.

Heating the hot water and dairy parlour, you also have your milk chilled by the GSHP's by-product chilled water - for free. A bespoke controller operates the heat/chill solution via a cloud-based system enabling Calibrate to monitor all aspects of the process and tariff generation meters online. This system is independent from an existing refrigeration system, giving 100% back up.

Another area of farming to benefit from these systems is the potato farming sector. Again, in this instance, a by-product of the heat pump’s heating cycle is chilled water, which is used to chill the stored potatoes. The hot water heats the farm buildings, provides the hot water to wash the potatoes, heat the grading shed and the workshops.

These systems currently qualify for the highest Government Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) tariff.

98% of all of the clients who have systems installed by Calibrate opt for the 20-year Maintenance and Extended Warranty on offer, giving them total peace of mind: “We offer our clients a 20-year warranty package ensuring there are no surprises or hidden costs with our technology,” says Shane McDonald, MD of Calibrate.

If you have a grain dryer, potato store, or dairy farm it is worth looking more closely at the options that Calibrate can offer you. The company is located in rural Northumberland,  but has clients all over the UK who are happy for prospective purchasers of this equipment to visit their sites and see their renewable projects up and running and see the savings and income generation figures that back the confidence in the systems.  There are a range of options from leasing to outright purchase of the new equipment. You can even try before you buy to ensure it delivers what you are looking for as a business.