By integrating modern-day beekeeping concepts like ‘solar honey’ with energy-efficient bee farming techniques, beekeepers in Alberta can discover serious cost-saving opportunities.

In a somewhat shocking report published in September of 2019, the Alberta Beekeepers Commission reported some of the lowest honey yields in nearly 4 decades. Compared to the past three-year average, over half of all Alberta beekeepers noted seeing their annual honey yield decline by as much as 50 percent.

The report reveals the need for identifying innovative cost-effective farming approaches that bring together energy-efficient technologies with eco-friendly beekeeping best practices.

Report: Net-zero concept for indoor overwintering beekeeping

In November of the same year, Dandelion Renewables’ expertise was sought by the Alberta Beekeepers Commission (ABC) with support from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to propose the economic feasibility of energy-efficiency improvement opportunities. This included the design concept for a net-zero indoor overwintering beekeeping facility for the Alberta commercial beekeeping community.

This futuristic study sought ways of reducing the carbon footprint and improving the environmental sustainability of indoor overwintering beekeeping farms of Alberta. Additionally, it looked for methods of achieving net-zero without using fossil fuels as a heat-source, while providing all of the energy required to run the equipment in the facility including building heat.

Going net-zero simply means that a the facility operation generates the same amount of energy as it consumes, on an annual basis. Integrating renewable energy generation with the facility results in a net-benefit for the environment. The benefit comes from offsetting the amount of grid-sourced energy used, since the Alberta electrical grid is primarily fossil-fuel powered.

30% of the 9,240 hives in the net-zero facility concept were overwintered indoors. Compared to a conventional facility, the net-zero facility’s energy cost would be slightly higher, due to using electricity and heat pumps instead of natural gas as the main heating source. With the implementation of grid-tied solar photovoltaic power generation, the net-zero facility realizes an annual power saving of about $11,000 in the first year. The indoor overwintering climate control system also led to a 2% decrease in hive losses with the net-zero concept, which translates into savings of up to $16,632 per annum.

The cost of setting up the proposed net-zero facility was estimated to cost $222,796 more than a comparable conventional commercial beekeeping facility. The cost premium for net-zero upgrades are expected to have a 13.6% internal rate of return on investment over a 30-year life and 9-year payback.

The net-zero concept eliminates up to 74.08 tCO2e per year of GHG from the atmosphere that the conventional facility would emit.

Other Energy-Saving Opportunities in Commercial Beekeeping

Dandelion Renewables is committed to achieving economical, farm-specific, energy-efficiency solutions, to benefit Canadian farms and the environment. Dandelion Renewables worked with multiple farms in Alberta to highlight the following beekeeping farm equipment categories that possess a lot of potential for cost-savings:

Vehicles

Beekeeping farms can invest in vehicle fuel efficiency improvement. They can also consider renewable diesel for their existing diesel trucks in a bid at reducing GHG emissions. Hybrid trucking technology is available in Canada today, and battery-electric-vehicle (BEV) trucking is expected to be more commercially-available in Canada in the years to come. These vehicle technologies are expected to offer some great cost-saving opportunities for beekeepers in Alberta and other provinces. One aspect of beekeeping that aligns well with opportunities for BEV trucks is that the majority of trucking occurs during the warmer months of the year. Summer temperatures support higher operating efficiencies for the current battery technologies entering mass production for BEV trucks.

Honey Heat Exchanger

The net-zero concept proposes replacing the conventional electric heating elements in the honey heat exchanger with a plate heat exchanger. The heat-exchanger transfers heat from an electric heat-pump hydronic hot water into the fluid flowing through the honey heat exchanger. The heat-pump is capable of delivering the same amount of heat as the electric heat elements, while using 2-4 times less electricity.

Space heating

During the winter months the heat sources are an air source heat pump taking heat from the overwintering room, and geothermal heat-pump acts as an extra heat source during periods of extreme cold, as the temperature of the ground, lower than 10 feet, remains around 12°C all year long. So pumping a fluid to circulate both in the ground and in the intended space is a massively efficient way of keeping the space heater.

Lighting

It’s common for beekeeping farms to use lights offering varying degrees of energy-efficiency. Dandelion Renewables proposes switching to LED lighting which consumes the least amount of energy.

Motivation for energy conservation

The founders of Dandelion Renewables have always been concerned about the destructive side-effects of a ‘consumption-based society’. The creation of Dandelion Renewables was a logical step for the company’s beliefs and skills to merge. Our work inspires us to discover better energy choices that allow us to sustain and remain in harmony with nature. Contact Dandelion Renewables today.