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How the Co-op almost halved their energy bill, without solar!

Ask Markus Nolle, one of the Directors at the Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Cooperative if it’s worth getting an energy efficiency assessment of your business and you will get a resounding and enthusiastic yes! When I asked Markus if he would mind doing an interview for SOS to share this good news story he said “Great idea Lisa! It really is amazing and I can’t believe what can be achieved with so little effort. I’m also stunned that electric ‘systems’ can be so inefficient”.

It all started when the Fish Coop received a grant from Sustainability Victoria, covering 50% of the cost of a full energy assessment. Markus described the electrical plant at the Co-op as a complex collection of stuff that had been developed and added to over the last 70 years. “We aren’t experts in this stuff, when something broke down, we replaced it or got it fixed and we had heaps of breakdowns. It was the never-ending story of being called in all times of the night because another pump had broken down again”.

The company employed to complete the energy audit report provided the Co-op with 6 recommendations that would cut their electricity bill. They were listed by priority of the greatest energy saving against cost of installation.

Action One

The first step in the process was addressing inefficient draw down of electricity as measured by the Power Factor. This is a measure of how efficiently the electricity drawn into the premises is being converted into useful work output. In a nutshell the Co-op had been losing power in their system; a whole 29% of the power they were paying for was being lost and was simply generating heat off the machinery. The installation of a power factor monitoring device at the main switchboard balanced the drawing of power into the premises to only be what was needed by operating machinery. This instantly reduced power loss significantly, resulting in a saving of $10,560 pa or 78.9tCO2 equivalent.

Action Two

The second step addressed the 5 circulation pumps in the lobster tanks. Three, single phase pumps and power points were replaced with three phase systems and the two smaller Davey pumps were replaced with larger more powerful pumps. Apparently, two big pumps that are not overloaded run heaps more efficiently than little pumps working really hard and an added bonus, they don’t break down as much. This culminated into a saving of $5,743 pa or 43.8tCO2 equivalent.

Action Three

The third step was Power Surge Protection. This involved the installation of a device which ensures only the designated amount of power actually reaches the connected equipment. This has saved a further 1% energy but importantly this together with the power factor device will ensure the business has a stable electricity supply. Not only does this action protect plant and infrastructure and reduce breakdowns but it also culminated into a saving of $2,292 pa.

The three actions completed will pay for themselves within approx. 18 months. Actions 4, 5 and 6 have not yet been completed. Solar panels will be installed after the building renovations are completed. The heat exchange on the cooling tower and an upgrade of the cooling system is planned for the near future. Markus says, “we picked the low hanging fruit first and have already made substantial savings. By the time the other actions are completed we anticipate an annual savings of $33,456 or in other words a reduction to 78.7% of the current electricity costs can be achieved through implementing all 6 actions. What is more important is the Co-op will be saving 238 tons of CO2 equivalent, I would love to know how many trucks of coal that is equal to?”

Markus would like to encourage other businesses in town to have their energy usage audited and to investigate the grants that are currently available to help implement this. For me, this story amplifies the need for us to be more aware and to reduce our energy consumption.

I’m sure almost all businesses and residents could use less power than what we do. There is not much point campaigning to stop coal and gas mining in favour of sustainable energy if we are not becoming more energy efficient at the same time.

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