With the cotton harvesting season near, ginners need to pay attention to practices that can save energy — and money — and to carry out measures to enhance safety of workers, says Rick Byler, research leader at the USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Laboratory at Stoneville, Miss.

“It’s not likely that the price of energy is going to go down, and we need to find ways to reduce the amount of energy used in the ginning process,” he said at the joint annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and the Delta Council Ginning and Cotton Quality Committee.

“Bobby Hardin, one of our scientists, is looking at ways this can be accomplished. His studies indicate that some gins use almost twice as much energy per bale as others, and there are things those gins can do to reduce their energy use and costs.

“We’ve done surveys for years on how much electricity gins use, but he’s been putting measurement devices on almost all of the energy-using equipment in the gin to determine exactly where energy is being used and how much is required per bale. Then we can figure out where improvements/savings can be made.”

One of Hardin’s projects shows that an operating gin uses nearly as much energy, whether cotton is being ginned or not, Byler says.

“If you have the last gin stand only half loaded, you’re wasting a lot of the energy needed to run that gin stand and the following lint cleaner. I know it’s hard to keep all the gin stands fully loaded all the time, but that’s a key to reducing your energy use per bale.”

Also, he says, a study has been done on energy savings related to gin breakdowns.

“When you have a breakdown, is it more efficient to turn off the equipment or leave it running while repairs are made? Our work shows that 12 minutes is the dividing line — if your repairs will take longer than 12 minutes, you’ll save money by shutting down; if less than that, let it run. We know some gins just let the equipment continue to run regardless of the time involved for repairs, but they’re needlessly using energy by doing that.”

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Gins that process the new round modules need to pay attention to their handling and safety, Byler says.

“On the gin yard, it’s important to leave room between these modules for air to circulate. If you put them too close together and it rains, then the sun comes back out, you can have rotten spots from moisture accumulation.

“There are concerns too, about safety in handling these modules. You’ve got a heavy, round object to manage. Make your employees aware of the potential danger in handling these modules, and don’t let them get in situations where they could be crushed.

“Also, there is a lot of plastic material that has to be slit and removed before the module goes into the ginning process, so don’t let employees get in places where they could be injured by the cutting mechanism. If you’re expanding or buying handling equipment for these modules, consider the potential safety issues involved.