August 2014: Is the future bright for LED lighting?

The security of supply and the cost of energy should be part of any forward-thinking business plan and shows the relevance of comments made by Hugh Crabtree at last month’s BPEX Innovation Conference. He outlined the huge cost savings and income opportunities to be gained from data recording and business planning.

The first part of developing any farm energy plan is to understand what, where and when energy is used. It’s easy to be attracted to the incentive payments on offer for renewables, and these can make a lot of investment sense, but at the same time, consumption needs attention – especially for lighting and heating.

I recently heard about a large Danish farm where all the hot water needs are supplied by slurry heat, and have also spoken to a UK producer who’s thinking about implementing slurry heat recovery. I’m sure once there’s some experience and confidence, this will become more mainstream.

After heat, lighting accounts for the most use of farm energy. Count the number of light fittings and do the sums; number of lights x power (watts) x time = £a lot. This could explain why LED lighting is now finally starting to gain some significant momentum. At the Pig Fair, I noted that there were a number of systems on offer, plus there’s interest on the NPA Forum.

Reports via the BPEX knowledge transfer team are suggesting mixed results in terms of the impact on pig performance. This was a concern of ours when, a few years back, the poultry industry started altering the colour spectrum of light to stop vices and to increase feed intakes.

At the time, we commissioned a report to see if the same opportunities existed for pigs. Unfortunately, results showed no scientific evidence to say it was good or bad. This may have been because the types of light available to researchers until recently were limited to primarily tungsten filament and fluorescent tubes.

Today, there’s a vast and bewildering selection of lights, fittings and controllers available, with LED being offered as a low-energy alternative.

However, it’s a case of “buyer beware”. Low power consumption can mean poor illumination; the colours produced by different lamps can be quite variable, blue and yellow types for example. For pigs, we have to be careful.

Richard Bows of the knowledge transfer team has been looking into this for some work he is doing in serving areas. When looking at any lights he says that the red/blue spectra wants to be equal (not tinged), providing a “natural” daytime light.

Light is measured in Kelvins; natural daylight is 4,500 to 6,000 Kelvins, and the range can be 3,000 to 9,000. White light is better than yellow, sodium-style, with lux ratings of 200-300 for service houses and 140-180 for dry sows. About 16 hours light and eight hours dull or dark is recommended.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in 2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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