Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre has first-hand experience that energy conservation is a worthwhile cause. The centre’s operating budget had not been keeping pace with rising energy costs, and as a result, less funding was available for maintenance. Staff recognized the need to decrease energy consumption. The initiative was also in stride with the department’s ongoing desire to reduce its impact on the environment.


The centre leveraged funding from Efficiency New Brunswick’s Energy Smart Program and worked with an energy consulting firm, MCW Maricor, to develop a long-term energy management master plan.  The plan identified eight energy conservation measures and prioritized projects with the highest return and the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions.


By managing some risk and funding several small energy projects, the research centre has seen a snowball effect.  Funds that otherwise would have been consumed by energy costs have been invested into energy-saving projects, which not only save energy but also take advantage of improved technology and new equipment.


Facilities manager, Sean Brown said, “We have been able to invest our savings into deferred maintenance projects such as roof replacements, window and door replacements, insulation enhancements, and automation upgrades. A direct result of this work is that we are able to provide a better service to our client - research”.


The Centre was nominated for an energy efficiency award by energy consultant Carman Travis.  “The staff have taken the energy management master plan and turned it into a program that is a model of technology and best practices,” he said. “The plan is overseen by several energy champions that ensure that objectives remain front and centre during day to day operations.”


With the master plan in place early in 2008, the stage was set for future energy projects at the centre.  Staff installed a number of variable speed drives on hot water circulating pumps which allow the pumps to operate at reduced frequency while providing nearly the same water flow.


They also installed an electric autoclave to facilitate the summer shut-down of the larger steam fire tube boiler.  In one building, high efficiency condensing boilers replaced a worn out fire tube boiler.


Energy assessments of the compressed air and vacuum systems prompted the design and installation of more efficient systems. By the end of 2008, the centre had also begun to review its domestic hot water heating systems and cooling methods for cold storage rooms.


The staff was able to demonstrate success through measurement and verification reports and, with the activities completed, underway or planned, the centre will decrease its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by at least 13% or 628 tonnes, which is the equivalent of taking 104 cars off the road for one year.


In a facility like the Potato Research Centre, new scientific equipment is added regularly which can have a significant impact on energy consumption.


One of the key factors in the success of this program was the early establishment of a benchmark and a performance indicator. With this ability to explain deviations from the benchmark they can identify the impact of both new equipment and the conservation measures introduced.