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Energy Conservation Tools

These tools were designed to help farmers and ranchers identify ways to reduce their energy costs. The modules determine if energy conservation equipment is being used and estimates the current energy usage. The tools will calculate the estimated energy and cost savings for the use of high efficiency equipment and energy conserving practices. The results generated by these tools are estimates based on models and help to determine which equipment or practices are worth pursuing to reduce energy consumption.

After you have collected the necessary data, each tool will take about 10 minutes to complete.

An on-site energy audit may be beneficial to uncover other energy conservation measures not covered by these tools. Please contact your local NRCS office for additional assistance.

Assessment Spotlights

Raising beef, replacement heifers, sheep, or other livestock is typically not very energy intensive but there are several technologies that will help you keep your costs low. Water is critical for all animals year-round. In the northern states water fountains are traditionally heated with an electric element or gas to keep the water from freezing. Super insulated, energy-free water fountains have been proven to be economical and reliable for providing water to all types of livestock without any supplemental energy. During hot weather ventilation fans can help maintain an animal’s productivity by reducing the effects of heat stress. Fans can be costly to operate but selecting a high efficiency fan might cut your ventilation systems operating costs by up to 60%. All farms require some lighting so chores can be efficient and safely done in the early morning or evening on short winter days. New lighting technologies can reduce operating and maintenance costs by up to 80% and often provide better light quality.

The Dairy Energy Self Assessment Tool allows dairy farmers to evaluate their current energy usage and generate estimates on how to reduce energy consumption with high efficiency equipment. The energy assessment tool is designed to estimate the energy use and costs for dairy farm milking centers and assist in determining if energy conserving equipment is economical for your dairy farm. The tool evaluates the use of refrigeration heat recovery, variable speed pumps, precoolers, high efficiency heaters and scroll refrigeration compressors.

Feeding and manure equipment are not included because, despite having larger motors, they typically only consume 7% of the total electrical energy used on a dairy farm. There are not any economically feasible alternatives to them at this time.

Grain Drying
It is necessary to reduce the moisture content of grain to a level that will prevent spoilage during long term storage. Drying grain can be done by forcing heated air or ambient air through the grain to speed up the rate of drying so the grain can be stored safely. There are many types of grain dryers to fit different sizes of farms, types of grain or the speed of drying. Each type of dryer has advantages and disadvantages and some offer options or practices that can recover or reduce heat required for grain drying. The grain drying tool will aid you in determining if the dryer you have can be made more efficient and if there are other dryers that are more efficient than the type currently being used.

In northern climates, energy for heating greenhouses is a major expense. Despite increasing energy prices, many greenhouse managers have been slow to adopt technologies that can greatly reduce the energy costs of heating or cooling greenhouses. This tool will examine heaters and boilers, thermal curtains and glazing as potential energy saving options for your greenhouses.

Irrigation systems use energy to lift water from a well or reservoir, and to pressurize the water to overcome friction losses in pipes and be distributed evenly over the soil. Energy use can be lowered by reducing system pressure on some types of irrigation systems, by ensuring that the pump is working as efficiently as possible and by using irrigation scheduling to manage when water needs to be applied.

The Irrigation Energy Self Assessment Tool will help identify potential ways to reduce your energy usage with any of the major types of irrigation systems: center pivot, lateral-move, hand-move, solid-set, side-roll, furrow, flood, and drip/trickle. Drip or trickle irrigation uses the least amount of energy of any irrigation system, but may still have potential to save additional energy. Sprinkler irrigation systems use the most energy, but may provide more even distribution over furrow or flood type irrigation. The tool will ask you for information about your irrigation system and then estimate potential energy savings from reducing system pressure, increasing pumping efficiency, and using better irrigation management for scheduling. A calculator at the end of the tool will aid you in considering if switching fuel could reduce irrigation cost.

The Lighting Energy Self Assessment Tool will increase awareness of the energy efficiency of different types of lights used in agriculture. It will also calculate the potential savings from using high efficiency lamps. This energy calculator is designed to estimate your current lighting energy usage based on your inputs and suggest more efficient alternatives when appropriate. This tool incorporates all types of lighting commonly used in agricultural enterprises including incandescent, halogen, mercury vapor, compact fluorescent (CFL), T12 fluorescent, metal halide, T8 fluorescent, high pressure sodium and T5 fluorescent lamps. This tool provides generic lamp replacement recommendations based on the current lamp type used and the typical replacement options.

Maple Syrup
Maple syrup production is a very energy intensive as it requires removing about 39 gallons of water from the sap to make one gallon of Maple Syrup. Conventionally this has been done with wood or oil fired arches. It takes about 2.7 to 3.4 gallons of fuel oil to produce one gallon of syrup using conventional methods but this can be reduced to less than 1 gallon of oil per gallon of syrup produced using pre-heaters, reverse osmosis and energy efficient combustion. The energy requirement can be reduced by 65 to 80% over conventional production methods while still maintaining the sweet delicate taste of pure maple syrup.

Potato Storage
The Potato Storage Energy Assessment Tool will make growers aware of the potential energy savings and quality benefits from using adjustable speed drives on their potato storage ventilation systems. Studies have shown energy savings of up to 65%, reduced electrical demand and decreased shrinkage of the potatoes. Adjustable speed drives can be retrofitted in existing facilities and typically have a simple payback of 3 years or less.

Ventilation is used in agriculture to control temperatures, to remove moisture and odors, and to increase air velocity and thus reduce air stagnation. Exhaust fans remove air from buildings to help keep animals healthy; circulating fans increase the air velocity around animals to help control their body temperature during hot weather. There can be a two-fold difference in energy consumption between a high efficiency fan and an average fan, even if of the same size. This tool provides an illustration of the possible cost savings of using high efficiency fans, as well as an estimate of the savings for using a High-Volume Low-Speed (HVLS) fan in place of high speed circulating fans. Links are provided to third party fan test data, articles, and factsheets on ventilation.

Water Fountain
The Water Fountain Energy Self Assessment Tool allows the comparison of many different types of heated water fountains to unheated super-insulated water fountains. Heated water fountains can incur several hundred dollars per season in energy costs depending on the exposed surface area of the water, location of the water fountain, construction of the cabinet and type of installation. This tool can be used for all ages of cows, hogs, sheep, goats and horses.