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Energy Efficiency in Agriculture
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According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE),
an extremely conservative estimate of potential energy savings in the
agricultural sector is $1 billion per year. The largest savings are
available in the motor system (especially irrigation pumping), onsite
transportation, and lighting energy end-uses. Just these three potential
savings amount to 10 percent of total energy expenses for the agricultural
sector nationwide. However, many more savings are available to Washington
producers, including reduced tillage, precision farming systems, and
efficient irrigation equipment. Energy savings are available to all segments
of Washington agriculture: dairies and livestock producers, nurseries, crop
farmers and food processors can save significantly by installing more
efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems. Best of all, these
efficiency improvements have very short returns on investment and
federal grant funds
are available to support improvements.
About a third of all energy used in U.S. agriculture goes to commercial fertilizer and pesticide production. Producers can readily impact their â€œbottom lineâ€ by reducing these energy inputs. Successful strategies include the use of cover crops and manures, nitrogen-fixing crops in rotations, composting, and integrated pest management (IPM). In addition, precision farming can reduce overlap of fertilizer applications.
Fertilizer Reduction Resources:
Typical annual greenhouse energy usage is 75% for heating, 15% for electricity and 10% for vehicles. Producers who put resources where the greatest savings can be realized have clear opportunities for savings. Energy conservation solutions range from common-sense to extremely efficient heating, cooling and watering systems:
A study in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and other states found that irrigation systems are, typically, not as efficient as they should be: on average, about 25 percent of the electrical energy used for irrigation was being wasted due to poor pump and motor efficiency. Properly designed systems promote correct soil moisture levels, leading to crop stress, reduced yields, wasted water, runoff, soil erosion, and many other problems. Energy (and money) can be saved in many ways:
The biggest opportunities for energy savings from farm vehicles can be found in tillage systems and tractor fuel efficiency. Tractor fuel efficiency can be as simple as proper tire inflation, regular vehicle maintenance, and reduced idling. Such measures can not only save fuel, but prolong the life of the tractor.
Where applicable, the biggest gains in tillage reduction are found in reduced-till or no-till cropping systems. These systems can also offer benefits such as increased crop yields, soil moisture conservation and reduced time in the field. Farmers can also use overlap reduction systems such as auto-steer, obstacle isolation, and proper equipment sizing to gain significant reductions in fuel use and equipment wear.
Energy efficiency incentives
USDA Rural Development offers grants for up to 25% of the costs of energy efficiency projects. These USDA grants are competitive and producers must have an energy audit by a certified auditor prior to applying.
Additional publications and resources
Tips to reduce agricultural energy costs from Mississippi State University Extension Service.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Energy Estimator offers a variety of energy saving suggestions, including nitrogen, tillage, irrigation, and animal housing.
The Farm Assessment Toolkit developed jointly by the University of Wisconsin and Focus on Energy assesses your farm's energy efficiency and identifies efficiency opportunities.
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) - NCAT helps farmers, government agencies, small businesses and non-profit organizations access information on appropriate technologies to help achieve sustainability in the agricultural and energy sectors.
Energy Solutions for Independent Farms - Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment produced a guide and other web resources to help farmers increase energy self-reliance and profitability.
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