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Farm Energy Benchmarking Project

Pennsylvania Farm Energy Benchmarking - a project of Penn State Extension to help farmers better understand how energy efficient their farms are operating.

Is your farm energy efficient?

Farm energy benchmarks are a tool that farmers can use to compare their farm’s energy performance to other similar farms, to see how their operation compares. It is a quick and handy way to see if a farm is doing well with their energy use, or if there are likely opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Penn State Extension is working on this student-led project to create these benchmarks for farms in the region, but we need your help!

Would you be willing to share information on how much energy your farm uses? We are hoping to collect data from at least 200 farms in the region, and we will use the data completely anonymously. When it is finished we will be sure to send each participating farmer a copy of the results so that you can see where your farm ranks in terms of energy use. Scroll down to read more details about the project.

If you are interested in helping us learn more about agricultural energy use by participating in this study, please contact Beth at bac30@psu.edu or Dan at dec109@engr.psu.edu.

Details on the Project:

Basic Information:

My name is Beth Calehuff. I am an undergraduate student at Penn State working as a student research assistant on a Farm Energy Benchmarking project this summer with Dan Ciolkosz. As part of the project, I need to collect and analyze energy use data from approximately 200 farms (or as many as I can get) within the state of Pennsylvania. I am hoping to connect with farmers that are willing to share information about their farm’s energy consumption, as well as some general information about the farm. This project will not only help me further my knowledge and personal interest in farming and energy efficiency, as well as allowing me to earn credit toward my bachelor’s degree, but it will improve overall understanding of energy consumption and efficiency within the agricultural industry. Being that utility bills and individual energy use data are not available in a public record as it is considered personal information, we are seeking farmers that are willing to voluntarily share information about their farm and its energy consumption. Your participation will help a student gain skills needed for a future career as well as knowledge about an important industry, and most importantly, it will allow us to expand our understanding of energy use in agriculture.

What are Farm Energy Benchmarks?

Farm energy benchmarks are a range of values measured in kilowatt-hour (kWh) per product per year. Each benchmark is specific to a sector of agriculture (i.e. dairy, poultry, greenhouse, etc.). Currently, there have been studies conducted on dairy farm energy use with benchmarks developed for this sector. For dairy benchmarks, each farm’s energy use intensity is measured in kWh/cow/yr. Further studies and benchmarks on dairy farm energy use will continue to be measured in this way, and benchmarks for other sectors will be modeled off of the dairy farm benchmarks. The parameters of each benchmark will be determined in the analysis of energy use data for each sector. Individual farms will be assigned a numerical value within the range of collective data. These individual values will be based on that farm’s personal energy use, and will allow the farmer to see how their farmstead compares to others as far as energy use and efficiency.

Why the need for benchmarks?

Each farm differs in its energy consumption. Depending on a number of factors, different types and amounts of energy are consumed for a variety of end-uses. For instance, one chicken farm may be reliant solely on electricity to meet their energy demand while another may consume propane with little need for electricity. These same two poultry farms may also differ in the size of their production, as well as whether they primarily produce broiler chickens or eggs. Without a farm energy benchmark, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine which farm is more energy efficient, which consumes more energy per output of product, or even to make suggestions as far as energy conservation measures that the farmers could implement.

What we are looking for?

We have chosen five sectors of agriculture to collect energy use data for analysis:

  • dairy,
  • poultry (chickens),
  • swine,
  • greenhouse, and
  • fruit/nut tree farms.

There are a few general questions about the farm that we would like to ask such as the size of the farm, number of buildings used in your production, and daily/annual output of product. Since we are looking for data that are related to energy use, we would also like to view a copy of your utility bills from the past year. The only information from the bill that we would be interested in is monthly energy consumption, annual energy consumption, energy provider, and cost per unit. It would not be necessary for us to visit the farm as all of this information could be shared via phone, email, or fax. If you have time, and are willing to give a tour of the farm, that would be great, but it’s not required. The amount of time will vary depending on how easily accessible the information is. In general, it should take one half hour or less.

Respecting your privacy is important to us so we will not be identifying your farm in the final report. All information collected will be kept confidential, and use for any other purposes will be done only with your permission.

Contact Information:

If you are interested in helping us learn more about agricultural energy use by participating in this study, please contact Beth Calehuff, project lead, at bac30@psu.edu or Dan Ciolkosz, project faculty supervisor, at dec109@engr.psu.edu.