Farm energy audits have evolved to become a useful tool that can improve profitability, conserve resources, and guide transition to renewable energy sources. Performing an audit can vary in scope from looking at a single energy expense to evaluating all energy inputs plus water use, etc. Audits can vary in complexity from self-performed to professionally performed audits using computer simulation. All energy audits should include review and analysis of energy records, a walk-through of the farm facilities characterizing equipment and systems, and identify specific energy conservation opportunities.
- Review and analysis of energy records (e.g. fuel and electric bills) can pinpoint areas for potential improvement. When combined with building plans and basic information about mechanical systems and equipment, a detailed analysis of energy use and costs, preferably over a period of at least a year, can often identify significant opportunities for energy savings.
- A walk-through is an opportunity to appraise the condition and operation of energy using systems. On-site measurement and testing is an essential aspect of a detailed audit performed by a professional, and can serve several purposes. Measurement of performance over a period of time can identify short and long term trends. Direct measurement of equipment or system performance is often more reliable and accurate than manufacturer’s data or engineering analyses.
- Specific energy saving options can be identified and used to find ways to reduce energy consumption, alter the type of energy used, or suggest renewable energy strategies.
Self Assessment Audit Tools
USDA NRCS have developed online resources to help growers identify energy costs related to lighting, ventilation, irrigation, etc. Go to Energy Self Assessment to begin your audit.
Fuel use on the farm is impacted by cultural practices (like tillage), the type of fuel used, equipment maintenance schedules, and even using the right tool for the job. These articles detail practices to reduce fuel consumption and improve fieldwork efficiency.
Fuel Requirements and Energy Savings Tips for Field Operations
Conserving Fuel on the Farm
Electricity and Natural Gas: Understanding Utility Costs Leads to Energy Savings
Renewable Energy Options
Renewable energy systems must be reliable, convenient, and economically viable. Present capital costs of renewable energy sources require government incentives to be feasible. Consult solar and wind system vendors that can help you with the current government programs and determine which renewable energy sources best suit your farm location and conditions.
Look into Net Metering if you plan to utilize solar or wind energy systems. A Net Metering agreement between you and your utility company allows you to use the electricity you generate first, reducing what you would normally buy from your electric utility. If you generate more electricity than you use, the excess goes through your electric meter and into the grid, spinning your meter backward. Your meter records the net amount, measured as the difference between the electricity your system generates and the electricity you purchase from your electric utility.
Renewable Sources Under Study
Research into a number of sources such as energy crops and biofuels, biomass, biogas, geothermal, and hydroelectric, may determine economically feasible sustainable energy sources for New Jersey growers. Plainview Growers already utilizes renewable energy pellets made from warm season grasses to provide the fuel needs for their facility. Read more…