The agricultural sector is one of the most energy-intensive sectors of the Midwest economy, and energy costs constitute a large portion of farmers’ expenses. Motors, vehicles and lighting are among the largest direct energy end-uses on farms, creating significant potential for savings through energy efficiency.
Opportunities to Save Energy
A common programmatic approach involves an energy audit. This process analyzes a farm’s energy use based on utility bills and operational information, providing a foundation for energy management. Efficiency opportunities include improvements in irrigation systems, grain dryers, milk chillers on dairy farms and ventilation on poultry farms. Recently, many Midwest farmers have been realizing the benefits of LED lighting in both interior and exterior applications.
Throughout the Midwest, many investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives offer rebates for farmers and growers looking to purchase more efficient equipment or implement energy management practices.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also plays a role in improving energy efficiency on farms. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to help purchase renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements and perform renewable energy feasibility studies. It also funds an energy audit and technical assistance program to serve farmers and rural small businesses.
Through REAP, the USDA also offers rural utilities financial tools to help agricultural producers and rural residents make energy efficiency improvements.
MEEA’s Waste Heat Recovery Pilot
MEEA promotes best practices in agricultural energy efficiency program design and encourages market transformation. With many improvements to farming technology, tech-savvy farmers are open to testing new equipment innovations. MEEA’s efforts in this space include the adoption of waste heat recovery systems for poultry growing operations. These systems have been recently adapted for the harsh interior and exterior conditions in Midwest poultry barns, and have been shown to dramatically reduce energy demand.
Working in partnership with the University of Missouri, MEEA is making connections between engineers, farmers, rural utilities and industry associations in order to increase the number of systems across the region.