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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #299491

Title: Changes in cotton gin energy use over the past 50 years

item Funk, Paul
item Hughs, Sidney
item Hardin Iv, Robert
item Boykin Jr, James

Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/10/2013
Publication Date: 5/15/2013
Citation: Funk, P.A., Hughs, S.E., Hardin Iv, R.G., Boykin Jr, J.C. 2013. Changes in cotton gin energy use over the past 50 years. National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference. January 7-10, 2013, San Antonio, TX. Available:

Interpretive Summary: The conference presentation and paper reported on research comparing energy consumption per unit processed in 1962 with those same values for 2010; during the half century interval labor productivity increased 400% to 600% as machines did more of the hard work. Additionally, work formerly done in the cotton field and in the warehouse is now done at the gin facility. Despite replacing human and animal muscle power with electric motors and doing more work in the gin, the electrical energy consumed per unit processed declined. This efficiency gain is ascribed to economies of scale realized through consolidations, better equipment designs, high efficiency motors, a proliferation of automated control systems, and other technological advances. The bottom line for consumers is encouraging: their natural fiber clothing has an ever-shrinking energy impact.

Technical Abstract: The public is concerned about environmental quality and energy sustainability. Cotton producers, gin owners and plant managers are concerned about rising energy prices. Both have an interest in current cotton gin energy consumption, and may also be interested in how it has changed over time. Information from energy audits and from Cotton Incorporated sponsored monitoring studies were combined to estimate the electrical energy consumed per bale for five processing and five materials-handling categories. These values were compared to similar data published nearly fifty years ago. Though this time period saw a significant increase in labor productivity, replacing man-hours with machinery did not result in increased energy use. Bale packing energy consumption increased because gins now press bales to nearly twice the density compared to the early 1960’s. Other processing categories decreased significantly. Trash handling decreased significantly despite the increasing energy burden of more stringent emissions regulations. Other materials-handling categories did not change as much. Total electrical energy consumed per unit of cotton processed decreased by 19% to 34% even as gin processing rates have increased three to six fold and as mechanization has made labor four to six times more productive. This is welcome news in a day when consumers are concerned about the carbon footprint of their apparel.