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Energy Calculators and More

If a farmer isn’t looking for a grant to help fund an energy makeover, but instead wants to only explore ways to save energy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has several online tools available. On its Energy Tools site (energytools.sc.egov.usda.gov) there are links to energy-usage estimators, including those for animal house, irrigation, nitrogen and […]

By Chris Hill

If a farmer isn’t looking for a grant to help fund an energy makeover, but instead wants to only explore ways to save energy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has several online tools available.

On its Energy Tools site (energytools.sc.egov.usda.gov) there are links to energy-usage estimators, including those for animal house, irrigation, nitrogen and tillage, as well as other more general self-assessment tools. The tools are based on the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (asabe.org) standard for performing on-farm energy audits published in 2009.

Selecting any one of these self-assessment tools will lead the farmer to a series of questions, beginning with location. After that, the farmer can answer detailed questions about their operation that is used in analysis. For example, the lighting section asks for the number of specific bulb types, such as incandescent, compact fluorescent, tungsten-halogen, etc. The next step asks the producer to enter the cost of their electricity per kilowatt hour, days per year and hours per day the specific lights are used.

The data collected is then used to create a recommendation summary that includes estimated savings based upon specific changes that can be implemented.

The NRCS also offers self-assessment tools to estimate energy production from renewable energy alternatives [http://ruralenergy.wisc.edu/renewable/default.aspx], such as solar photovoltaic and hot water panels, biogas, and wind turbines. One note before looking into renewable energy techonologies: It is usually more cost-effective to first invest in equipment and methods that will reduce your energy consumption. This will then reduce the investment cost of renewable energy.

U.S. Resources:

Natural Resources Conservation Service: Energy Tools energytools.sc.egov.usda.gov

Natural Resources Conservation Service: Energy Self-Assessment Tools ruralenergy.wisc.edu/conservation/default.aspx

Environmental Quality Incentives Program nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?&cid=stelprdb1046252

University of Georgia, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences caes.uga.edu/about/hottopics/fuels/energy.html

Canadian Resources:

Government of Alberta, Agriculture and Rural Development: Enhanced Environment page with tools focusing on Energy Efficiency, Stewardship Plans, and Water Management growingforward.alberta.ca/ProgramAreas/EnhancedEnvironment/index.htm

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: “25 Quick On-Farm Energy Saving Tips” www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/energy_tips.html

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