An Ohio solar energy system used to offset electricity use for grain drying.

Peak demand energy management strategies for agriculture

As agricultural systems have become more sophisticated and automated, the electrical demands of many farms have increased, requiring enhanced needs for high quality electric to power equipment. Due to increased electrical usage, many farms are now on a commercial rate structure. Unlike residential rates, which are based primarily on total energy usage measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), commercial accounts are also charged for the highest peak demand usage spike over a short time period measured in kilowatts (kW). 

To better understand how peak electric demand affects agricultural facilities, Ohio State University Extension is collecting energy usage data for individual motor loads across six swine and dairy facilities experiencing high energy demand costs.  

To collect the data, Ohio State University researchers installed multifunction energy meters capable of recording energy usage for up to 24 critical loads on the farm. By collecting granular electric usage data, the trends of energy consumption, peak demand, and power factor for each measured circuit can be analyzed.  

Literature review and assessment of preliminary results indicate:        

  • Many farmers are aware they are on a demand rate, however do not fully understand how their demand charges are calculated.
  • There appears to be targeted motor loads that can be shifted to perform work during non-peak times to reduce demand charges.
  • Energy management strategies will likely include conservation, energy efficiency, load shifting, and on-site generation.  
  • Specific details of the farms rate tariff such as demand ratchets and power factor correction formulas will influence the economic payback of possible solutions.

Next steps

  • Continue monthly monitoring of research farms
  • Data analysis and modeling by the OSU Computer and Electrical Engineering
  • Develop energy management strategies to reduce peak demand costs and disseminate project findings and recommendations through OSU Extension outreach and education programs.  
  • Expand study to a multi-state effort to address additional agricultural sectors such as poultry, grain handling, irrigation, and greenhouses.
  • Implement possible solutions and conduct a cost/benefit analysis.

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