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Agricultural Energy Use

If your business is growing crops or raising livestock and poultry, your energy profile looks a lot different than a manufacturer or commercial building owner. You might need to move air, liquids or food around large areas. You may need to refrigerate fruit, milk or eggs. Your barn or greenhouse may need heating in winter, or you need specialized lighting for your plants or animals. There's increasing consumer interest in local food, native plants, organic and related certifications, and embodied energy – for example the energy used to get from seed to table. There's also climate change: The Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2018 shows the impacts that climate change will likely have on agriculture, including altered growing seasons for crops, increased heat stress for livestock, and intensified stormwater runoff and flooding issues. Ag best practices, including energy conservation and renewable energy generation, can help offset some of these negative impacts.

For all of these reasons, it's vital that you know your operation's energy profile and manage it to conserve and save energy, thus saving money.

Understanding the challenges that farmers face, DEP is interested in learning how we can better work with the agriculture sector to help you reduce your energy consumption and costs. Recognizing a need to better understand energy usage on Pennsylvania farms, DEP contracted with EnSave Inc. for the development of a report titled Energy Use, Energy Savings, and Energy Efficiency Policy Recommendations for Pennsylvania Agriculture.” The report’s energy use analysis uses the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture data coupled with real on-farm energy audit data. The dairy and poultry sectors were found to be the most energy intense of the agriculture subsectors analyzed, but all farms have energy efficiency opportunities, from lighting to exhaust fans, and water heating to grain drying.

As a first step in improving outreach to the ag community, DEP has partnered with Penn State Extension to provide Farm Energy Day workshops focusing on energy efficiency, solar energy, and biogas. These workshops are being rescheduled, so please check Extension’s webpage for future dates and locations.

We've provided tabs for energy topics that may be helpful to you; but we'd like to suggest after reviewing those that you head to one of these much more in-depth sites where energy use in agriculture – including the creation of your own on-site fuel from your crops – gets more specific for your particular type of business. Financial and technical resources for ag producers and agribusinesses are also included below.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture encourages, protects and promotes agriculture and related industries throughout the Commonwealth. PAgrows was created to help agribusinesses access the money they need to begin, continue and expand their business.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s PA Business One-Stop Shop provides resources and financing information for small businesses.

Penn State Agricultural Extension Office is an educational organization providing technical assistance and training to the ag community through energy assessments, in-person learning experiences and on-demand access to articles, videos, and online courses. Your County Extension Office is a great resource.

USDA has numerous programs to assist farmers and growers with energy management

The USDA also runs the Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans & Grants for ag producers and rural small businesses.

AgStar provides energy funding for the agricultural industry in the form of loans and financing.

Act 129 provides for incentives and rebates for energy efficiency projects through your electric distribution company (Act 129 excludes REC’s, but if you are located in an REC territory, we suggest inquiring with them about any possible incentives).

DEP’s Small Business Advantage Grant provides 50% matching grants, up to a maximum of $7,000, to enable Pennsylvania small businesses to purchase energy efficient or pollution prevention equipment, to adopt waste reduction processes, or reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in our waterways.

DEP’s Pollution Prevention Assistance Account provides low-interest, fixed-rate loans to small businesses undertaking projects which reduce waste, pollution or energy use.

The Alternative and Clean Energy Program (ACE) provides financial assistance in the form of grant and loan funds for the utilization, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects in the state.

On-site energy assessments are provided through DEP’s State Energy Plan assessment program as well as through USDA’s Renewable Energy Development Assistance (REDA) program, through which the REDA grant recipients assist farmers with energy assessments. Please contact your USDA State Rural Development Energy Coordinator for more information on this program.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is an on-farm energy initiative through NRCS that provides financial assistance for the development of an Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP). The AgEMP, or energy audit, is completed by NRCS-certified Technical Service Providers. NRCS can also cost-share equipment upgrades that result from the audit.

Pennsylvania’s four Sustainable Energy Funds offer varying levels of financing in the form of loan and grant programs to promote deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies: