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For most farms and businesses, improving energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption and costs is a priority. By identifying and implementing energy savings management strategies, farms have the opportunity to reduce input costs and their carbon footprint.

A two-year BC Farm Energy Assessment Pilot Project sponsored by the BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative, was conducted to help identify energy savings opportunities on farms. “We were involved with the pilot project and worked with many different farm types to collect information and develop an energy assessment tool that was suited to all types of operations,” says Patricia Baker, Energy Management Engineer with Prism Engineering in Burnaby, BC. The project was conducted in two phases and completed in the fall of 2011.

“Led by my colleague Sam Thomas, the first phase of the project included blueberries, potatoes, greenhouses – floriculture and vegetables, cattle, poultry and dairy,” explains Baker. “We worked with between two and eight different farms for each farm type to get an idea of what energy savings opportunities might be the highest priority for their operations. A specific module was developed for each farm type to identify savings opportunities and provide an outline of the estimated budget costs and potential savings for each opportunity, including a renewable energy component.” In phase two, vineyards, nurseries, orchards, grain and cold storage operations were added. As a result of the project, new tools such as the Farm Energy Assessment (FEA), resources and incentives have been developed for BC farms.

Farm Energy Advisor, Assessment Tools and Other Resources

The BC Agriculture Energy Advisor is a new free resource available to BC farmers. The Energy Advisor will assist farmers with identifying and implementing energy savings opportunities and serves as the point of contact for technical information, resources and incentives. A second resource is the BC Farm Energy Assessment (FEA), which is available through the Environmental Farm Plan and Beneficial Management Practices (BMP) Programs.  A Farm Energy Assessment reviews consumption of all fuels used by an individual farm including: electricity, natural gas, diesel, propane biomass and motor gas.

“Sam Thomas, is the new BC Agriculture Energy Advisor and the first step is for producers to work with their farm plan advisor to conduct a FEA,” explains Baker. Prism Engineering, as well as other consultants have been trained to conduct assessments and work with producers. “Using the FEA module developed for that farm type, the assessment requires about two days, including some time at the farm and will result in an individualized FEA Report.  The report provides the participating producer with a high level review of energy systems and overall picture of energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions, and a summary of energy savings opportunities.”

Producers can implement low or no cost energy savings opportunities immediately, but should investigate the more technical and higher cost projects in more detail prior to implementation. Thomas will also assist farmers in identifying and applying for financial incentives for energy upgrades, such as those offered under the BMP program, BC Hydro PIP, LiveSmart BC or others. “Other tools and resources are being developed and will be available including Fact Sheets for each farm type included in the pilot project and other technical materials. BC farmers now have access to some valuable resources and tools to assist with energy saving opportunities and financial incentive programs,” adds Baker.

Example of Energy Saving Opportunities

Using the BC Dairy Farm module as an example, energy accounts for approximately 12% of the costs of running a dairy farm in BC. Dairy farms are relatively energy intensive due to the high electricity loads of equipment used in milking parlours including chillers to cool milk and vacuum pumps for milking. Lighting and ventilation are also large contributors to the overall energy usage on a dairy farm.

There are both low or no cost energy saving opportunities for dairy farms in BC as well as some specific energy upgrades. Some energy saving opportunities require research, planning and investment, but are also eligible for cost-share incentives include lighting upgrades, heat recovery and insulation for storage tanks, condensers and lines. Contact the BC Agriculture Energy Advisor first to find out more about the tools and resources available to BC farmers.