Reducing energy usage is a hot topic at the moment, with many companies feeling the pressure from the government to reduce CO2 emissions to comply with new legislation. Whilst the pressure was initially on front facing retailers, it has now quickly moved to engulf all food manufacturing and processing companies, the largest users of refrigeration and cold storage.
Refrigeration is essential in the food industry to ensure food stays fresh and produce waste does not occur, but – with figures from the Food & Drink Federation suggesting that almost half of all electrical energy used in food production is consumed by refrigeration systems – it is also one of the biggest consumers of energy.
Many cold stores today have been in existence for over 25 years and, as such, were designed at a time when energy usage was not an important financial or environmental consideration. This, coupled with rising energy costs, means that cold stores are using excessive amounts of energy; an ammonia cold store plant was recently found to be using 43 per cent more energy than originally intended when first built.
Faced with such staggering figures, companies in the food industry are becoming increasingly aware of the necessity to reduce their energy usage and minimise their CO2 emissions.The potential
In an effort to meet Climate Change Act targets, organisations that consume large amounts of electricity will soon be required to participate in the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. Under the scheme, companies are required to buy allowances at the start of each year for their estimated carbon usage per tonne, and are fined if additional allowances are required. The scheme is particularly relevant to the food industry, as a large number of the 1500 to 2000 food manufacturing companies in the UK – all major users
of refrigeration and cold storage units – spend in excess of £500,000 on energy bills each year.
On the positive side, cold storage has been found to have the fourth best energy saving potential across the entire food industry, with the Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre (FRPERC) finding significant opportunities – through the installation of low cost technologies – in five cold stores they studied between 2006 and 2010.
In the FRPERC study, companies with cold stores in the UK were found to currently use an average of 483,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, costing them nearly £5.8 million annually in CRC allowances. After new energy saving technologies were installed in the five cold storage plants, 20-40 per cent savings were achieved. Using these figures CO2 emissions could be reduced by as much as 193,200 tonnes of per year, as well as savings of approximately £2.3 million in CRC allowances.
With such substantial savings achievable through a relatively small investment, food manufacturers are beginning to seek appropriate solutions for their own cold store operations.The solution
While there are numerous ways in which energy can be lost in cold storage, a number of new technologies exist to combat this. One of the most common ways of reducing energy consumption is through the installation of new lighting. This, however, can be costly in comparison to other equally efficient yet more cost effective solutions, especially at sites with large cold stores.
For example, door open alarms – which work by giving an audio and visual signal to nearby personnel if a door is not shut properly – can combat the problem of increased energy demands due to cold store doors being left open. While leaving cold store doors ajar might seem insignificant, it can have a negative impact on energy usage as the store would need to work harder in order to maintain the temperature inside when warmer air is let in. With a cold store at maximum capacity
much of the time, any increases in temperature won’t only damage energy bills, but also the food produce being stored.
A Compact Digital Thermometer is another simple way to help ensure that the temperature is kept at the optimum level for products stored, and that no rises in temperature occur. Three digit Compact Digital Thermometers are designed to be used with a thermistor probe over a range of +/- 50.0˚C, which will constantly display the temperature whilst the probe and supply are connected. A Digital Thermometer can be easily installed at the entrance to a cold store, near equipment that needs to be monitored, or in a high visibility area where it can be easily monitored by staff.
Another low cost technology that is highly effective and easy to install is a gas detection system, which can help reduce energy costs through the minimisation of gas leaks that lead to higher energy usage. Gas detection systems detect a wide range of refrigerant gases, including CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs, through monitor
sensors placed around a temperature controlled warehouse, with the status of each sensor depicted using coloured LEDs. An audio visual alarm is also included, to alert personnel immediately should a gas leak occur.
All of these energy efficient products are easily adaptable to suit specific site requirements, meaning that companies don’t need to pay excessive amounts of money in order to keep their energy consumption down; a small investment can produce substantial savings. However, it is vital that experts are employed to assess what is needed to ensure that the best possible solutions are implemented for the cold store, and the food produce primarily stored there.
Shaun Evers is the managing director at Stonegate Instruments. The company develops and manufactures tailored energy saving solutions for cold storage units, including door control alarms, gas detection systems and digital thermometers. All the Stonegate’s products are manufactured in the UK.
For more information visit: www.stonegateinstruments.co.uk
or tel: 0113 224 4440