To get the biggest bang for their electricity dollar, more
and more farmers are turning to energy efficiency to boost their bottom line
Electricity on the farm powers heating (water, space, heat
lamps), pumping (irrigation, water wells, manure lagoons), refrigeration,
ventilation, lighting, fans (drying grains, aeration), and materials
handling — feed augers, manure conveyors, milking, and egg conveyors. In the
area of motors and lighting alone, the American Council for an Energy
Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates farmers could save $88 million annually
by implementing cutting-edge efficiency measures using available technology.
EnSave, a Vermont-based farm energy audit group, has
created a pyramid revealing steps agricultural operations can take to cut
down on energy use, arranged by cost and benefits of improvements.
First, farmers should analyze energy use. This may reveal
opportunities to save on electric use and in some cases could lead to
increased productivity. Next, farmers should try energy conservation —
changing behaviors and simply using less energy daily. After this, the
greatest savings may be achieved through energy efficiency — working smarter
and saving money by using more efficient equipment.
Each farm — from dairy and poultry
to general agriculture — provides different opportunities for efficiency
upgrades, varying by region and crop. However, regular equipment maintenance
provides universal benefits.For example:
Removing dust, soot, and debris from equipment will allow it
to do more work with less effort, extending its life and
reducing energy use.
regularly: Equipment should be checked regularly. Replace
parts that are showing excessive wear before they break and
cause irreparable damage.
Plug leaks: Be it
a pinprick hole in a hose or a drafty barn, leaks waste
money, fuel, and electricity. By plugging the leaks, savings
can be considerable.
Hoses should be regularly flushed to clear them of debris.
Ensure fan and motor intakes and exhausts remain
clutter-free for maximum circulation and efficiency.
presents another efficiency touchpoint. Light work areas,
not entire buildings, and use daylight when possible.
Installing dimmable ballasts can also help control light
Types of lights used make a difference. Incandescent
lightbulbs typically convert only 10 percent of the energy used into light.
There are many other options available:
•Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) deliver the
same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, but use only a quarter of the
electricity. Installing CFLs may cost a little more initially, but they can
last up to 10 times longer.
•Cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) can last
up to 25 times longer and have around the same efficiency as CFLs.
•T-8 and T-5 lights with electronic ballasts
generate less noise, produce more light per watt, offer better color
rendering, minimal flickering, and cooler operation, and provide electric
For more regional and crop-specific options, the U.S.
Natural Resources Conservation Service provides farm energy calculators.
From animal housing to irrigation estimates, the calculators assess how much
energy your farm currently uses and provide insights on how to cut your
costs. Learn more at www.energytools.sc.egov.usda.gov.
Sources: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy,
EnSave, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service