11 May My dairy farm’s electric bill was $700 last month. Should I consider a solar energy system to reduce electric costs?
Answer: I would need to know more about your farm to give an educated opinion but, in general, if the $700 dollar electric bill was for one month, then your farm would likely be a good candidate for an energy audit. An audit would determine where most of the energy on your farm is being used and offer suggestions to reduce the usage.The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a program called EQIP On-Farm Energy Initiative, which helps farmers with an energy audit and with energy retrofits like lighting changes and motor upgrades, based on the results of the audit. You can learn more at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=stelprdb1046252. You might also contact your local NRCS office to get additional information. I would also suggest that you contact your electric utility. They sometimes have different rates for different customers and also may offer help with reducing your energy usage. Once you have made some inroads on reducing your energy needs, then you can look at alternative energy sources like solar to help with at least part of the rest of the job. USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers cost share and grants for alternative energy system installations. You can learn more about this program and how to apply for it at www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency.For more information, consult the following ATTRA publications: Dairy Farm Energy Efficiencyhttps://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=198This publication provides an overview of how dairy farms can implement efficiency improvements and energy-saving technologies that can reduce energy consumption and energy-related costs.Renewable Energy Opportunities on the Farmhttps://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=306This publication introduces three renewable energy resources that can be attractive and economically feasible for the farm: solar, wind, and renewable fuels. This is not a technical guide for designing or installing renewable energy systems but, instead, an overview that provides information on wind, solar, and renewable fuel technologies, cost and savings, site planning, and financial incentives.