Calmer chickens, lower bills for Power Smart winner

Mary Frances Hill

At Aberdeen Poultry, the classic chicken-and-egg question is answered: First come hundreds of calm, happy hens. Then come their eggs – and plenty of them – delivered in a controlled, serene, and energy-efficient environment.

Dan Penner wasn't thinking about being a pioneer when he decided to change the lighting in the 200- and 300-foot barns that hold more than 28,500 birds at his Salmon Arm farm. For the two years since he took the farm over from his father, Penner made do with cheap 40-watt incandescent bulbs, similar to the common household incandescents that sap energy – and dollars – by emitting heat.

Poor light, unhappy birds

The incandescents were initially inexpensive, but they burned out regularly. Replacement took time and money. What's worse, weakening lights often flickered. Put flickering lights in a barn full of hens, and the end result is irritated, unproductive birds.

It wasn't until a salesman told him about BC Hydro's Power Smart Product Incentive Program that he was inspired to make changes. He figured that replacing the incandescents with efficient, durable cold cathode lights would save him money – this, despite the cost of $11 each.

"I did all the numbers and it made economic sense to do it," says Penner. "We're always looking at ways to save when the opportunity comes up."

The role of the Product Incentive Program

The Power Smart Product Incentive program gave Penner what is essentially a rebate on each bulb. With about two dollars off the cost of each bulb, he could afford to install about 210 bulbs. They're guaranteed over two years; without this incentive, the extra costs would have been covered in 18 months. The rebate program made all the difference.

The initiative earned Penner a BC Hydro Power Smart Excellence Award, in the Product Incentive Program Achievement category.

Cold cathode light technology

A cold cathode light is a tubular light that works by passing an electrical current through a gas or vapor. This type of lighting is up to five times brighter than neon lighting; with a lifespan of about 50,000 hours, it has one of the longest lives of any lighting fixture at about 50,000 hours.

Serenity is almost guaranteed: cold cathode lights are often installed in quiet alcove areas and in waiting rooms, or in public places where flickering lights can cause seizures.

Penner grew up on the Salmon Arm farm, and watched his father manage it efficiently for its time. When he grew older, he pursued a career in the construction industry. But when the senior Penner decided to sell the farm and downsize, his son was the perfect candidate to take over. The prospect of working as an independent farmer, and specializing in poultry, appealed to him.

When the elder Penner bought Aberdeen Poultry Ltd., it came with 13,000 birds. By the time Dan and his young family took over the family farm, the flock had grown to 28,500, most of which he manages himself.

"Because of the supply management, (poultry farming) isn't a bad return," he says. "It would have been tough if it were a hog or beef farm – I definitely wouldn't have been interested."

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