Farm Energy-efficiency FAQs

Question: Who is authorized to conduct a farm-specific energy-efficiency audit? Answer: The engineering professionals with the technical skills to conduct energy audits and who have experience with farms. Additionally, you can look at Dandelion Renewables Energy-Efficiency case studies, the Agricultural Energy-Efficiency analytical review and financing programs in 2019 for increasing irrigation systems efficiency. Question: What information is required for an energy-efficiency audit? Answer:
  • Bills (Power, Nat Gas, Propane, Diesel, Gasoline);
  • Facility tour of equipment;
  • Operations review;
Question: What is the process of an energy-efficiency audit? Answer: The process includes the following steps:
  1. Measure energy consumption of different equipment.
  2. Identify the most energy-efficient equipment and practices among those producers.
  3. Make farm-specific recommendations for energy efficiency improvements.
Question: What is included in the farm-specific energy-efficiency report? Answer: The report includes recommendations for the most cost-effective opportunities available for the farm to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption. Question: Which farm equipment have the best opportunities to reduce energy consumption and costs? Answer: The major equipment categories vary and depend on the facility type and equipment usage. For example, in commercial beekeeping, we have identified following equipment categories or systems (in order of highest to the lowest potential for annual cost savings per hive):
  1. Vehicles
  2. Heat Trace
  3. Wax Melting
  4. Space Heating
  5. Honey Heating
  6. Lighting
  7. Indoor Overwintering Fans
  8. Pressure Washer Heating
  9. Appliances
  10. Circulator
Question: What are the general parameters of energy-efficiency? Answer: General parameters of energy-efficiency include:
  1. Annual Fuel Savings (MMBtu)
  2. Annual Electricity Savings (kWh)
  3. Annual Cost Savings
  4. Cost of Upgrades
  5. Payback (years)
  6. Internal Rate of Return on Investment (IRR)
Question: How can farmers reduce their energy costs or energy consumption? Answer: For example, for the Vehicles category considering savings options might include (not complete list):
  1. Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Improvement
  2. Renewable Diesel for Existing Diesel Trucks to Reduce GHG Emissions
  3. Hybrid-Electric Diesel Trucks and Electric Trucks

Solar Center Pivot Irrigation

Image source: Alberta Farmer Express
In Alberta, drought is becoming more and more common while electricity prices are only getting higher. This means special attention is needed regarding the efficiency of irrigation systems. There are a few government programs that can help with irrigation efficiency in Alberta including the Canadian Agricultural Partnership grant for Irrigation Efficiency (CAP-IE), the Farm Energy and Agri-Processing Program (FEAP) and Alberta’s On-Farm Solar Management Program from the Growing Forward 2 initiative.   There are a couple of government grants to utilize when upgrading or building new center pivot irrigation systems. CAP-IE provides one payment for each parcel of land (multiple parcels are possible) which can apply as:  
  • $15,000 of the eligible costs for an upgrade on the parcel from a gravity, side-wheel or high-pressure center pivot irrigation system to a new low-pressure center pivot (LPCP) system or a subsurface drip irrigation system.
  OR  
  • 40% of the project cost up to $5000 for
    • equipment upgrades on the parcel; or
    • an upgrade on the parcel from an existing irrigation system to a surface drip irrigation system;
  Eligible equipment includes:  
  • new low-pressure centre pivot to replace a gravity, side-wheel or high-pressure centre pivot,
  • retrofit of a high-pressure centre pivot to a low-pressure centre pivot, including booster pumps, nozzle packages and pump modifications,
  • high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles and related equipment to upgrade an existing low-pressure centre pivot,
  • variable-rate irrigation equipment (controllers and software),
  • control panel upgrades, including base stations for telemetry,
  • surface or subsurface drip irrigation to replace gravity, side-wheel or high pressure centre pivot.
  FEAP meanwhile can provide 50% for retrofits of new fixed speed pumps with smaller HP motors or 50% for retrofits or new construction of variable speed drives (VFDs) for center pivot irrigation systems.   In addition to the energy-efficiency benefits, Alberta pivots can benefit from installing solar panels. Because of the way electrical rates are structured in Alberta, you almost always get less money for your solar energy if you sell it back to the grid, so it’s best to find applications where the electricity can be used directly. Center pivot irrigation combines extremely well with solar PV because the generation/usage patterns are practically identical. In Alberta, the two main irrigation wire service providers are Fortis and Atco. The irrigation rate structure for Atco has high distribution charges (58 ¢/kW/day) and low energy charges (1.1 ¢/kWh), while Fortis has low distribution charges (19 ¢/kW/day) and high energy charges (8.2 ¢/kWh).   In ATCO territory, almost your entire bill is determined by your capacity, thus installing a solar array with a control system to only irrigate when generating solar can greatly reduce your energy bill. The most critical time to line up is when your motors are starting up as this is when they consume the most electricity, so this is when they’ll set your peak.   With FORTIS, the better you line up your daily power consumption profile to the solar generation, the better rate you will get for your solar power. If you sell power to the grid, you will only get the rate that you buy your electricity at from your energy retailer (usually 6-7¢/kWh), but if you use the solar energy directly, you will be saving at a combined rate of around 14 ¢/kWh in the Fortis territory! At that rate, payback for a 150kW solar array can be in the neighbourhood of 6 years!   Check out our webpage on Alberta’s On Farm Solar Management Program from the Growing Forward 2 initiative for more information on the government grants that apply to solar irrigation systems.   Garnet Borch, E.I.T

More Government and Energy Efficiency Alberta Solar Funding Available

Great news in the land of sunny Alberta! Energy Efficiency of Alberta has updated their funding rates for its Residential and Commercial Solar Program (RCSP) as of Nov 2018. All new applications submitted right now will qualify for these new rates. Even better news for our Edmontonian neighbors, the City of Edmonton Residential solar grant is still available for additional funding. Here is a breakdown of the rates for funding:

Rates based on installed solar DC capacity in Watts:

CustomersCity of EdmontonRest of Alberta
Residential

Lesser of:

$0.90/Watt or 35% of total project cost ( maximum grant value of $10,000)

+$0.15/Watt

Lesser of:

$0.90/Watt or 35% of the total project cost

(maximum grant value of $10,000)

Commercial

Lesser of:

$0.75/Watt or 35% of the total project cost

(maximum grant value of $1,000,000)

Non-Profit Organizations

Lesser of:

$1.00/Watt or 35% of the total project cost

(maximum grant value of $1,000,000)

The increase in the funding rates is meant to generate further interest in the program. In 2019, the Government of Alberta would like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our province by about half a million tons (the equivalent of 70,000 passenger vehicles off the road) through the implementation of this program.

To learn more about the program and it’s details, feel free to visit the Energy Efficiency Alberta website at, https://www.efficiencyalberta.ca/solar/ Thank you to all of our existing customers who have installed a system with Dandelion Renewables and have benefited greatly through this program. To our prospective customers, we welcome you to contact us to see how you can benefit from a grid-tied solar PV system and from the new Government funding rates. We will be happy to assist you with sizing a PV system size to meet your needs and calculate the funds that you will be eligible for. We look forward to hearing from you!

Agricultural Energy-Efficiency

You may have seen graphs, articles, videos etc. telling you how much energy is consumed by the agricultural sector. It’s not our business to tell you what you should eat, but it is our business to help you lower your energy use, generate your own energy and save money while doing it. The question we want to answer is: WHERE is all that energy consumed and what can be done about it? This is quite the question to unpack in a single article! Agriculture is a huge industry with many sub-industries such as fertilizer production, grain farming, dairy farms, slaughterhouses, processing and packaging. We’ll go over a few of the more common industries and you can make inferences as to what the other industries may consume. The handy graphic below from the American Institute of Bioscience (AIB) gives a great overview of where energy is consumed in crop production. (1)
Agricultural energy efficiency
Where energy is consumed in crop production
Since the majority of energy is used in the production and distribution of nitrogen fertilizers, AIB found that converting to no-till farming with a legume cover crop could reduce energy use by 37%. A low hanging fruit that can offer great payback is reducing the energy used in grain drying. Note that this is an American study and may miss some of the main consumers in rural Alberta such as irrigation pumps. In arid regions, installing energy-efficient water pumps, or even solar power irrigation pumps, can result in significant savings.   In the case of dairy farms, about 50% of the energy used is electricity and 50% natural gas. The below graphs from the Alberta government (2) give an overview of where that energy is consumed.
Energy consumed by dairy farms
Dairy farm overview of where energy is consumed.
Primary energy efficiency measures to consider here are: high-efficiency water boilers, high-efficiency pumps in milking operation, well designed, efficient refrigeration systems and a well-designed ventilation system.   Lastly, on pork farms, the split is more like 62% natural gas, 38% electricity.
Pork farm consumed energy
Pork farm overview of where energy is consumed.
Space heating and ventilation go hand in hand here. A well-insulated barn with the right controls and ventilation fans can result in better energy efficiency and thousands of dollars in energy savings.   Key technologies that may be applicable on your farm are:
  • Variable frequency drives
  • High-efficiency fans
  • High-efficiency hot water heaters
  • Proper control systems
  • High-efficient water pumps
  More than any technology, though, it’s a critical review of your energy use that will make you savings. As with any energy efficiency measure, it starts with an awareness of where your energy is used, best practices, good habits follow and technology is the final piece.   Check out our article on the Growing Forward 2 program from the Alberta government regarding on-farm energy efficiency and generation (such as solar) and our portfolio of energy efficiency case studies.

References

  1. Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Crop Production Using the Farm Energy Analysis Tool . Richard, Gustavo G. T. Camargo Matthew R. Ryan Tom L. 2013, BioScience.
  2. Alberta Government. Growing Forward 2 Factsheets.