Mattie Moore (41) and his wife Miriam are pig farmers based in Croghan, Co. Offaly. The farm, which has been in operation since Mattie’s father Patrick began the family business in the 1970’s, now rears 180 sows each year.
Up until recently, T5 and T8 fluorescent lights were in operation in the farm’s gestation sheds. According to Mattie, they were outdated and required lots of maintenance, so he decided to do some research and found that LED lighting would best fit his farm’s needs.
He then came across UrbanVolt’s Light as a Service®.
“LED lights for pig sheds has been talked about a lot for the last few years, so I decided I wanted to upgrade to them as I heard they were more cost-effective,” he said.
“There were so many LED options out there but I chose to go with UrbanVolt’s Light as a Service® to install the LED lights as if the lights falter within a certain length of time they have a guarantee, so it was reassuring that they could stand by that.”
UrbanVolt is based in Dublin and offers a Light as a Service (LaaS®) model where it invests its capital to install energy-efficient LED lighting. The company is then paid a proportion of the savings which are generated over a five-year period. The ‘pay-as-you-save’ model means that the farmer has significantly lower energy bills and UrbanVolt is paid monthly as the savings are realised via the LED lighting. This means the farmer gets a full LED upgrade and a net monthly saving.
The UrbanVolt project management team oversaw the retrofit of 164 uniform LED fittings on Mattie’s farm via UrbanVolt’s LaaS®, which created consistent light levels across the site.
According to Mattie, the UrbanVolt team did a “neat job” and he was delighted with the finished product.
“In fairness they did a great job because they probably weren’t used to working in buildings that had pigs in them. It was a very neat job and there were no issues. It only took a few days and they got it done when they said it would be done,” he said. “It is more cost effective for the farm and since our pigs use 16 hours of light each day it’s very important to us.”
Mattie has saved 41 megawatt hours of light on his farm via UrbanVolt’s LaaS® - this has resulted in 59% energy savings overall.
In recent times, Mattie admits that he has become “more environmentally conscious” and encourages farmers to consider LED lighting if they feel the system would work for them.
“We installed heat pumps for the water and would like to install solar panels for on the sheds. It depends on what fixtures a farmer already has in place and the condition of the lights but I’d recommend LED lights as they end up paying for themselves in the long-run,” he added.
Teagasc’s rural and bioenergy specialist Barry Caslin said that LED lights are “hard to beat” when it comes to energy reduction and can be used in a variety of areas on the farm.
“LEDs may cost more to install but they last longer and are more energy efficient. They’ve come on leaps and bounds and are ideal in the milking parlour or in the yard where you need good lighting,” he said.
While UrbanVolt co-founder Graham Deane explained that the farming sector wasn’t initially an industry they had targeted their Light as a Service to, he added that they soon received enquiries from farmers looking for ways to decrease their energy bill.
“We work with any large farm or business which has a lighting or energy problem they need solved. Pig farmers are particularly fond of what we do as they have a lot of lights, and it is typically some time since their sites were upgraded.
“Some of these farmers are also expanding at the moment and they are delighted to be able to cut some cost from a capital project and outsource the LED lighting element to us."
Mr Deane also pointed out that in this era, where talk of carbon footprints is a hot topic, the energy savings and environmentally-friendly aspect of their service makes it even more attractive to farmers.
“The cost benefits go without saying — farmers don’t have to put up any capital or give any personal guarantees and they see immediate savings as their energy bill is reduced from day one,” he said.
“There is no other technology which delivers the same immediate benefits as LEDs. They deliver a 75% reduction in energy consumption which means the farmer reduces their carbon footprint from day one of the installation.
“For farmers or food production facilities which are part of any sustainability programme such as Bord Bia’s Origin Green, Light as a Service is a huge leap they can take without taking on any cost or risk,” he said.
Since the end of 2017 UrbanVolt have been offering a Solar as a Service (SOLaaS®) solution to farmers. Mr Deane said that farms are an ideal place for solar energy but said that it should only be looked at once farmers had made other efforts to reduce energy consumption on the farm, such as via LED lighting.
“We bring our clients on the Energy Technology Roadmap which means first reducing how much energy they use, and then applying other technology which will generate energy on site,” he said.
He added: "There is nobody else who is offering to put their cash in business’s ceilings and wait 5 years to get paid for the service. All others are overpromising and are out the door with the money before their client realise there’s a problem - we partner with the farming community and we are with them every step of the way."