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New Energy Assistance Resources Available for Agricultural Producers

Posted: March 30, 2011

Two new energy assistance resources are now available for agricultural producers in Pennsylvania.

Penn State is assisting farmers with identifying ways to improve farm energy efficiency through the “Pennsylvania Farm Energy Audits Program.” Saint Francis University is assisting landowners assess their wind resources through the “Community Wind Project.”

Expert advice, in the form of a farm energy audit, is the best method to find ways to improve your farm’s energy efficiency. Unfortunately, energy audits are often quite expensive and typically cost $1500 or more. Through the “Pennsylvania Farm Energy Audits Program,” USDA will offset the cost by paying 75% of the energy audit, leaving only 25% of the cost to the farmer. The audits are carried out by Penn State agricultural energy specialists or specially trained private consultants, depending on the location of the farm and availability of personnel.

An audit consists of a careful analysis of your farm’s energy use, combined with scientific analysis of possible ways to reduce energy use in a cost effective manner. The energy audit will include an easy-to-understand report that lists recommended ways to improve energy efficiency on your farm, plus information on possible funding for installing energy efficient equipment.  It will be up to you to decide what to do with this information.  Assistance will be available to help you understand your options and see how you can upgrade your farm’s energy performance.  An energy audit is a required first step for many funding programs, so this is an important first step for taking advantage of a variety of energy installation programs.

Pennsylvania Farm Energy Audit Program funds are on a first-come, first-served basis, and are limited to commercial farms (including greenhouses) that are in a rural area in Pennsylvania. An application and additional information are available online at: http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/energy. Click on “PA Farm Energy Audits Program.” Applications are also available through your county extension office. For additional information, contact Daniel Ciolkosz at 814-863-3484 by email at dec109@engr.psu.edu.

The Pennsylvania Farm Energy Audit Program is a partnership between USDA Rural Development, Capital Resource Conservation and Development Council, Center for Dairy Excellence and Penn State Cooperative Extension.

The Saint Francis University Renewable Energy Center was recently awarded a grant from the USDA Rural Development and Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to provide reports on wind resources for Pennsylvanian landowners. This service will be free to landowners throughout Pennsylvania. The lift on the electricity cap has left farmers and rural small businesses with rapid increases in electricity costs. Wind turbines in areas with good resources will help to reduce that cost, increase revenue streams, and lower overhead.

Identification of a site’s wind resource is critical in determining feasibility of a potential wind project. The Saint Francis University Renewable Energy Center will use their systems and data to prepare wind resource assessment reports for your specific site with detailed information. Those with sufficient wind resources will be provided with information on choosing reputable wind installers. Those without the sufficient wind resource will be advised on other possible renewable energy sources to utilize.

Farmers and small businesses benefit from wind power in a number of ways. In locations with good wind resource and high electricity costs, wind power reduces overhead expenses. Wind power can reduce risks by providing greater certainty about the future cost of electricity. Essentially, buying a wind turbine locks in electricity rates over the lifetime of the system, typically 20-30 years. Using renewable energy can be a “differentiator” valued by today’s green consumers who are willing to put a premium on food and products produced in an environmentally careful manner. The wind power use can be included in advertising. In addition, the federal government offers tax credits and accelerated depreciation on wind power investments.

More information and applications for assistance to assess wind resources through the Community Wind Project are available at the Saint Francis University Renewable Energy Center website or by email at renewable@francis.edu or by phone at 814-472-2872.

George Hurd is the Penn State Extension Environmental/Resource Development Educator serving Adams County. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg PA 17325-3404. Phone 334-6271. e-mail AdamsExt@psu.edu.