Renewable Energy Down on the Farm
Down on the farm, it's always a good time to get a bit corny and talk about farmers going green, so here goes.
In February 2011, The United States Department of Agriculture released its first ever survey covering renewable energy use on U.S. farms.
The survey provides statistics on the wind power, solar energy and methane digestion practices adopted by U.S. farmers over the pas decade. Additionally, it also provides some initial statistics on the potential energy savings farmers realize by utilizing these renewable energy sources.
Renewable Energy Resources
Many farming enterprises use small wind turbines to produce energy necessary for powering a variety of their day to day operations.
State rankings can be a bit difficult to decipher. Looking at both the number and size of wind turbines in use, the five states employing the most wind power for their farms (as opposed to having a wind farm created for the purpose of generating energy for commercial sale) appear to be:.
- California: 134 farms with 160 turbines, each producing an average capacity of 3kw
- Colorado: 98 farms with 147 turbines, each producing an average capacity of 3kw
- Minnesota: 99 farms with 144 turbines, each producing an average capacity of 20kw
- Texas: 102 farms with 148 turbines, each producing an average capacity of 4kw
- Washington: 50 farms with 62 turbines, each producing an average capacity of 19kw
Solar energy can provide for many farming needs from heating and cooling buildings, including greenhouses, to pumping water and heating water, along with drying grains.
California farmers also went hog wild installing solar capacity, almost tripling the amount of farms from other leading states.
Methane Digesters, or energy devices that use animal manure to power methane energy systems, are becoming popular in the dairy farm business. They are fairly costly power systems to install, but as the top video shows, once installed they begin returning huge dividends for their investors in terms of energy costs saved.
The efficient use of animal manure for power also provides the positive benefit of reducing the odors associated with animal farming.
Large dairy states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and California currently lead the United States in the use of methane digesters.
Because most of the survey deals with smaller wind and solar power energy generation, the average savings per farm are also measured in smaller terms.
The USDA estimates that the average farm using renewable energy resources saves $2,406 yearly in energy costs. New York farmers lead the list with an average energy savings of $5,067.
Discussions regarding the energy savings associated with methane digesters runs in the tens of thousands of dollars/year neighborhood.
The reports notes that all numbers are estimates, and do not reflect complete, 100% farmer participation, in the survey.
© 2011. Patricia A. Michaels