Energy audits can lead to significant farm savings

By Matt Reese

When it comes to energy use on the farm, there is always a better way of doing something with newer technology, changing practices or taking a different approach. And, as costs continue to climb, saving energy on the farm means saving money.

With this end goal in mind, the 2008 Farm Bill included provisions for the use of Environmental Quality Incentives Program to assist producers with addressing energy conservation through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The last sign up period for the year, and maybe for the current farm bill, ends on June 1.

The NRCS EQIP On-Farm Energy Initiative offers assistance to producers in two ways: it enables the producer to identify ways to conserve energy on the farm through an Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP) conservation activity plan (CAP), also known as an on-farm energy audit, and provides financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices recommended in the energy audit, such as residue and tillage management, and Farmstead Energy Improvement.

The cost of that initial farm energy audit is covered by the NRCS. This important first step sets the stage for energy conservation.

“We audit every single machine on the farm and find ways for farmers to change or update things to save energy and money,” said Jay Zollars, with New Energy Systems in Columbus. “From there, we can also help farms apply for grants to help fund any new equipment they might need to accomplish that.”

The audit typically consists of an hour-long phone interview to go over the types of equipment on the farm prior to the actual audit. Then there is an on-site visit to do a detailed assessment of the specifics of the operation.

“In many cases, farmers are not aware of how much they can be saving,” said Dana Koppes, an engineer with New Energy Systems. “Lighting and ventilation are two of the big areas for energy savings on many farms. Dairy pumps, heating and cooling systems on livestock farms and greenhouse operations can see real saving just by changing a few things.

For more about this program, visit the local NRCS office before June 1.

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