Key to the success of this effort is the growth and development of a farm energy efficiency "community of expertise" within the state that is able to provide necessary advanced analysis and support to the agricultural sector.
Also vital is the development of an energy savvy agricultural population within the state that is able to recognize energy opportunities and manage their operations in an optimized manner.
Examples of the program's outputs and efforts include:
Farm Energy Efficiency Education
Educational programming aimed at agricultural producers who are interested in improving their energy efficiency and profitability.
- Recent examples include an "energy on the farm" workshop in Lancaster county and "smart energy shopping" presentations in Montgomery and Berks counties.
Farm Energy Assessment Training
These workshops are designed to provide training to energy specialists and agricultural professionals who wish to develop a proficiency in on-site farm energy assessment. They include a combination of classroom and hands-on training, and require participants to carry out and submit an independent farm energy assessment before their participation is certified.
Agricultural energy specialists within the program team can also provide energy assessment support to local farmers on an "available resources" basis. This can take the form of a phone or email discussion to support a farmer's self-assessment efforts, or can include a full audit of the facility in question.
In general the program seeks to complement available expertise in the private sector rather than compete.
Analysis Tools and Educational Materials
The farm energy efficiency program team continually develops and expands upon available tools and materials for farm energy efficiency. Materials include assessment handbooks, worksheets, fact sheets, and the energy selector tool.
Farm Energy is Unique
The special requirements of agricultural production and farm professionals make agriculture a unique opportunity for realizing energy efficiency. Because of this,Penn State regularly holds Farm Energy Efficiency workshops to train energy professionals and farm technologists how to effectively analyze and identify practical and economical energy savings measures for farms.
These one-day events provide instruction in the fundamentals of farm energy assessment, including analyzing current energy use patterns, understanding energy-using equipment on the farm, and determining effective ways to reduce energy use.
Presenters typically include a mix of engineers, energy specialists, and farm professionals from Penn State Extension's Energy Efficiency Program Team. The workshops also include a site visit to a nearby farm, where participants put their new skills to use by carrying out a hands-on energy assessment of a commercial agricultural operation.
"The most renewable energy is the energy you never use."
While Benjamin Franklin may not have said that, he undoubtedly would have agreed.
Unfortunately, when it comes to farming, not many people understand the unique energy aspects of modern farm operations, which makes it hard for farmers to find the information or help they need. Recent workshops held by Penn State Extension have aimed at addressing this problem.
Two workshops were held in June at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center, which focused on:
- Dairy Farm Energy Efficiency
- Greenhouse Energy Efficiency.
These one-day workshops covered the fundamentals of farm energy efficiency, and taught attendees the skills needed to perform an energy assessment on a Pennsylvania farm. Attendees included extension educators, energy consultants, and farmers from throughout the state.
One valuable component of the workshops was that, after the lectures and the ample lunch, the workshop moved out to a nearby farm or greenhouse, where the skills that were talked about were put into practice under real farm conditions.
Our hope is that, in the coming months, workshop participants will be putting their skills to further use on farms and greenhouses throughout the state, which will in turn help create farms that are more energy efficient, cost competitive, and sustainable over the long run. The long term goal of the program is to create a community of farm energy experts in Pennsylvania that can meet the needs of our agricultural sector. Energy experts at Penn State will be assisting participants with carrying out their first few farm assessments, and will be on hand for unusual problems that might crop up.
If all goes well, the next few years will see real improvements to the energy status of farms in the state.