The “Energy and Small Farm Sustainability” project featured research, implementation, and showcasing of viable energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects for farms in western Massachusetts. Center for Ecological Technology (CET) staff members and consultants developed methodologies to evaluate the potential use of renewable energy technologies and helped farms install renewable energy systems by providing information and assistance regarding siting, sizing equipment and obtaining financing. CET conducted a variety of outreach activities highlighting ways that energy efficiency and renewable energy can be beneficial to farms seeking a more sustainable approach to agriculture, including farm tours, workshops, presentations, fact sheets and information posted on our website. We also provided assistance to farms interested in installing monitoring equipment to 1) measure the potential for wind power and 2) track solar energy system performance, and 3) make data available on the internet for other farms and the general public. Our initial target group was dairy farms and orchards, but we worked with SARE to expand our scope to serve other farmers as well. Among the renewable energy technologies we researched and/or demonstrated were solar energy, wind power and methane digestion.
Of the approximately 56 dairy farms and 16 orchards in the Berkshire area, 25 farms will have an energy efficiency assessment, including an analysis of existing energy end use and recommendations for conservation measures.
Early on we realized that our proposed performance targets were based on outdated information about the numbers of dairy farms in our region. When we sent out our first mailing, we learned that there were only 35 dairy farms and less than 10 orchards, which was only 60% of the number in our original database. We are pleased to report that CET provided program services to over 33 farms in western Massachusetts. Of those, 22 farms received an energy efficiency audit. We continued to focus activities in the Berkshires, but accepted requests for assistance from farms other than dairy and orchards, and expanded our territory to include the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts as time and resources permitted.
Of those who receive an energy assessment, 25 farmers will install efficiency improvements with a 1-year payback. A total of 15 farms installed energy improvements with a 1-2 year payback. Again, the total reflects the smaller population of farms in our area than we had planned for in our original proposal. Energy efficiency lighting represented the majority of energy improvements with a 1-2 year payback period.
5-10 farmers will make significant energy efficiency improvements. A total of seven farms invested in significant energy efficiency improvements. These measures included insulation, air sealing, and installation of a variable frequency drive for milking equipment.
3-5 farms will participate in a renewable energy resource assessment, which may require additional monitoring (e.g. wind capacity or sun power). 15 farms participated in a renewable energy assessment, evaluating solar, wind and/or methane digestion. Three farms installed wind monitoring equipment and are currently evaluating the potential for wind power to provide electricity for their farms. An additional farm has received funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) to evaluate building integrated photovoltaics for a new farm building and another has received planning and pre-development funding from MTC for methane digestion. Biogas, the byproduct of digestion, would be used to generate electricity and heat.
Of those who are evaluated for renewable resource potential, 1-3 farms will install small-scale renewable demonstration projects. Three farms installed solar photovoltaic systems: Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Gould Farm in Monterey and Howden Farm in Sheffield. Further detail about those farms is provided below.