Equipping Extension Educators to Address Producer Needs in Energy Education

2011 Annual Report for EW10-012

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $99,596.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Hamlen
MSU Extension

Equipping Extension Educators to Address Producer Needs in Energy Education


This project intends to meet the needs of producers in energy education via the professional development of Extension and other agency personnel. The project will be completed through:
• Collecting and developing non-biased, research-based materials designed to meet the needs of educators and producers who may lack formal training on energy-related issues.
• Providing information that addresses decision making, focusing on technical, economic and regulatory issues.
• Providing training and resources that are helpful to educators and agricultural producers seeking to assess the potential for renewable energy development and/or energy conservation in agricultural operations.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The output objectives for this project fall into two categories: 1) direct educator training and materials and 2) indirect training and materials that can be accessed by agricultural producers, Extension Agents and other agency personnel.
1: Audience A: Direct Educator Training
Product a: Curriculum: The assessment and work completed in the inputs phase would result in a professionally designed curriculum for teaching energy to agricultural producers. While the curriculum design would be predicated on assessments in the input phase, the output may include suggestions for incorporating energy education into sustainable production conversations and trainings, such as sustainable production agricultural updates, or tips for breaking complex energy decisions into easy-to-understand steps for producers.

Product b: Intranet Tools: Extension educators in both Montana and Wyoming have informally indicated that they are intimidated when they are confronted with energy issues. In addition, not all educators will be able to attend the in-depth training proposed in this grant. Therefore, Intranet tools would be developed to help educators walk producers through the steps of evaluating energy issues. These guides would be available to all Extension educators and agency personnel.
Product c: Training: The curriculum and Intranet tools would be accompanied by training for targeted Extension educators and agency personnel in all Western SARE states. This training would include hands-on experiences, presentations from subject matter experts, and exploration of the curriculum and Intranet tools. In addition to the formal training, networking opportunities between states would encourage future collaboration. The emphasis of this training would be on teaching energy issues.

2: Audience B: Indirect Educator Training
Product d: Material Development: Based on work in the inputs phase, materials would be designed, modified, or repackaged to meet producer needs. As asserted in the assumptions description, these materials would be evaluated to ensure that they provide a balance of technical, economic, and regulatory considerations, are unbiased and representative of multiple perspectives, and are useful to producers in understanding their potential for energy development and/or conservation as it relates to the sustainability of their operation.

Product e: Development of Tool Kits: In addition to the Intranet tools, energy tool-kits would be available to interest groups who would like to engage in education with agricultural producers. These tool kits would provide easy-to-use information, guides, and materials that would help to instruct producers in making energy decisions.
E: Outcomes
Outcomes for this project are as follows:
1. Educators will increase training and educational outreach to agricultural producers. This outreach may take a variety of forms, from informal one-on-one discussions to formal workshops or references to materials and tools. Hopefully, those who participate in the training will conduct training sessions in their own states to further leverage this investment. Educational outreach may include breakout sessions at commodity organizations annual conventions, agency training sessions for their own agency own staff, etc.
2. Educators will establish networks for energy education between Western SARE states. This collaboration will, in the short term, enable greater education capacity and reduction of duplicated efforts between states, and, in the long term, establish a network structure that will enable educators to adapt and respond to emerging energy issues. . This is especially critical as many emerging energy issues cross political boundaries. As an example, many states will be involved in the siting of large-scale transmission line development. While the project may be the same from Montana to Nevada, the implications of the project and local reactions to the project will differ by state. Communication between resource providers can help to ensure that new issues are addressed appropriately and that consistent education is provided across political boundaries.
3. Producers and educators will be able to more easily access unbiased, research-based information.
4. Producers will apply the available information in their decision-making processes.
5. Producers will understand that their local issues may not be they driving factors in their energy development plans. Some energy issues, such as pore space leasing for geological sequestration of carbon or large-scale transmission development may be dictated by larger interest groups.
6. Evaluations will indicate that the materials and resources available are relevant to meeting producer decision-making needs.
Ultimately, the project will aid producers in making informed energy decisions and will encourage them to seek out the trained educator network when faced with new energy concerns.
Performance Targets
Activity Start Time End Time
Notice of Grant October 2010
Needs Assessment Design April 2010 May 2010
Conduct Needs Assessment May 2010 June 2010
Evaluation of Materials May 2010 June 2010
Design of Materials June 2010 September 2011
Development of Curriculum April 2011 September 2011
Development of Intranet
Tools July 2011 September 2011
Development of Materials
and Tool-Kits April 2011 September 2011
In-Depth Training Planning July 2011 September 2011
In-Depth Training November 2011
Evaluation November 2011 June 2012


Needs Assessment
As reported in the 2010 annual report for EW10-012, a needs assessment survey of Extension Educators in the WSARE states was conducted. In addition, a review of available materials and programs from Extension programs in the WSARE region was completed. To further assess needs and determine curriculum development needs, University of Wyoming conducted a Solar Energy International training for field faculty in November 2010 and Montana State University Extension piloted a model for small wind energy curriculum in October 2010. These efforts emphasized the unique nature of professional development needs in Extension with regard to energy education. The project coordinators identified appropriate methodologies for material development and training as a result of this in-depth needs assessment.

Toolkit Development
Based on the needs assessment, the toolkit is being designed to accommodate varying levels of knowledge on renewable energy. Each technology will be included in a separate folder. The folder content is designed to provide a) a quick assessment tool such that an educator or producer might easily evaluate if the producer’s situation is appropriate for a given technology b) step-by-step guides for more in-depth consideration of a given technology and c) considerations for energy efficiency and conservation.

The materials in the toolkit are designed such that an educator with limited knowledge on energy technologies might walk through assessment materials with a producer. However, the materials are robust enough that educators wishing to delve further into education and outreach on renewable energy have the resources to do so. The materials can also be provided directly to producers in the event that an educator does not have background or training in renewable energy.

The E3A (Exploring Energy Efficiency and Alternatives) toolkit also includes an energy pyramid to aid educators in discussing energy with producers. The pyramid emphasizes the need to begin energy work with assessment, and then progress to conservation and efficiency before considering renewables (unless dealing with a remote pumping application). This concept is exceptionally important in teaching renewables and the project development team determined that the pyramid will aid educators in emphasizing that cost and complexity of energy projects increase as a producer moves from conservation to renewable energies.

Material Development
The E3A toolkit is being printed at the time of this report. At this time, four land-grant universities are involved in material development and design, Montana State University, University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, and North Dakota State University. The toolkit box will contain folders on the following topics for home, farm, and ranch:
1. Small Wind Energy (MSUE)
2. Solar Hot Water Systems (MSUE)
3. Solar PV Systems (MSUE)
4. Anaerobic Digester (CSU)
5. Biodiesel (MSUE)
6. Microhydro (UWE)
7. Home Energy (MSUE)
8. Farm Energy (NDSU)
9. Using E3A to Teach Energy (MSUE and UWE)

It should be noted that materials have been included on home energy. In assessing the needs of producers in MT and WY, it was determined that many ag operations in the arid West have electrical loads where the home energy use is a significant contributor to the overall electrical consumption on the property – especially in dry-land operations. In energy workshops and trainings conducted by UWE and MSUE, producers often had questions related to their home energy consumption and opportunities for renewable energy. It was determined that the toolkit would be incomplete without this material.

Website Development
A web-based decision-tree for anaerobic digesters has been developed: http://www.engr.colostate.edu/~jlabadie/Montana%20Decision%20Tree/

A web-based decision-tree for identifying funding sources appropriate to ag producers is in development.

A full website that includes all of the materials from the toolkit plus additional teaching aids will be developed in the Summer of 2011.

Training Plan
Training for educators and other agency personnel is being scheduled for November 2011.

Stakeholder Involvement
A WSARE Issue Team is involved in material development. This Issue Team is comprised of Extension educators and specialists from MT and WY. MSUE is actively working with NRCS to develop a training for field personnel from NRCS, Extension and conservation districts. As material development progresses, further involvement of ag-related associations and agencies will occur.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project will benefit producers by making energy-related resources available at the local level. In developing these materials and teaching designs, the development team has become increasingly aware that the issue with energy is not one of a lack of information. To the contrary, there is a plethora of information available. The challenge for educators and producers is distilling the information into the critical components that impact decision-making. These resources have not yet been released, so impact has not yet been measured. However, in testing the materials with end users, the feedback has been very positive – especially with regard to the manner in which the materials make the assessment of renewable opportunities easy and accessible.


Sarah Hamlen

Associate Specialist of Energy Education
MSU Extension
203 Culbertson Hall
P.O. Box 172230
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069941750
Milton Geiger

Energy Extension Coordinator
University of Wyoming Extension
1000 East University Avenue, Department 3354
Laramie, WY 82071
Office Phone: 3077663002
Website: http://ces.uwyo.edu/