Energy - Small Farm Sustainability

2004 Annual Report for LNE02-163

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $88,548.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $43,941.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Nancy Nylen
CET (Center for Ecological Technology)

Energy - Small Farm Sustainability


“Energy & Small Farm Sustainability” helps implement energy conservation and renewable energy projects for farms in Massachusetts and eastern New York. We assist farmers in identifying and implementing cost-effective opportunities to save money, conserve energy, and increase production. We developed a protocol to assess farms for potential renewable energy development. CET identifies strategies to implement renewable energy technologies, including financing. Farm tours highlight how efficiency and renewable energy increase farmers’ profitability. Our primary target is dairy farms and orchards, but we serve other farmers as well.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 56 dairy farms and 16 orchards in the Berkshire area, 25 farms will have an energy efficiency assessment. After receiving an energy assessment, 25 farmers will install efficiency improvements with a 1-year payback; 5-10 farmers will make significant energy efficiency improvements and 3-5 farms will participate in a renewable energy resource assessment, which may require additional monitoring (e.g. wind capacity or sun power). Of those who are evaluated for renewable resource potential, 1-3 farms will install small-scale renewable demonstration projects.

Note: Soon after we received funding from SARE, we learned that there were only 33 dairy farms remaining in Berkshire county, far fewer than we thought.


Thus far, CET has provided program services to 30 farms in the region. Since last year, CET conducted energy efficiency audits for the Diemand Egg, Howden and Downhill Farms. Six more farms installed energy efficient measures with a less than one year paybacks, bringing the total of installed measures up to thirteen. Kelly Green Farm in Blandford installed six compact fluorescent bulbs as did Woven Roots, Western Massachusetts Food Bank Farm and Downhill Farm. Each bulb saves about $60 over the lifetime of the bulb, and each farm can save as much as $300-350 through these lighting improvements. During the energy audit at the Diemand Egg Farm, it was discovered that a reach-in freezer was running too cold. They turned down the thermostat four degrees, resulting in an annual savings of approximately $60 and 525-kilowatt hours. Gould Farm stopped using an electric water-heating element for livestock. This saved them almost 7,000-kilowatt hours and just under $500 a year. After their energy audit, Downhill Farm began insulating ducts and will cover an unused chimney to save on heating bills. These improvements can not be measured in kilowatt hours.

This year, another farm made significant energy efficiency improvements. Gould Farm installed energy efficient lighting fixtures in their barn. These efficient lights will save just over 5,000-kilowatt hours and $427 annually. So far, a total of three farms have made significant energy efficiency investments.

Three more farms are working to make significant energy efficiency improvements. Jordan Dairy is applying for incentives from Massachusetts Electric Company that will cover half the cost of a variable frequency drive for the milking parlor. Morven Allen, formerly of Scribner Brook Farm moved his milkers to Sheffield, MA. He is working with Massachusetts Electric Company to identify energy efficient technologies for his new milking parlor. His old parlor had a plate cooler, but he needs a larger one. CET is investigating whether a re-built cooler can meet his financial, milking and energy needs. The Diemand Egg Farm plans to replace an old compressor for a more energy efficient model. The new compressor will cost about $900 and will save about $340 dollars a year and about 2,957 kilowatt hours. It will pay for itself in less than three years. This farm is also exploring heat recovery from those compressors.

Renewable Energy:
Solar: Within weeks, CET will have its’ first renewable energy demonstration project in place. With CET’s assistance, Gould Farm is moving forward with installing a 6.9 KW photovoltaic (PV) system. CET helped with preliminary designs, cost estimates and identified a financing structure whereby the PV system will be owned by a third party (CSG Services) and Gould Farm will receive the solar electricity at a reduced cost. The photovoltaic panels, made by Evergreen Solar, are already at the farm and we await a building permit to go ahead with construction. Howden Farm is close to signing a contract to install a 1 kw Schott PV system that will power drip irrigation for their pick-your-own raspberry crop. The system may be large enough to power irrigation to a pumpkin field across the road.

This year CET provided 5 renewable energy assessments for area farms. CET provided a solar resource assessment for the Western Massachusetts Food Bank Farm and helped the farmer consider the issues of siting and financing a photovoltaic system for the farm’s distribution room. Western Massachusetts Electric Company had available incentives. In order to qualify the project needed attention during the peak of the growing season. The Food Bank Farm was not able to put the necessary time toward the project and the incentives are no longer available. CET’s assistance to the Diemand Egg Farm helped them qualify for funding from USDA for a feasibility study for a 48-kilowatt direct-current photovoltaic system. Woven Roots Farm installed a new greenhouse and wanted to know about powering the greenhouse’s ventilation system with a small-scale photovoltaic system. Unfortunately, after a renewable energy assessment of the site, the prospects for solar power are not very good and the electric needs for the greenhouse are likely too minimal to justify the investment. Downhill Farm in Ludlow MA contacted CET after receiving fact sheets we developed for a farm tour that highlighted solar water pumping. The site is a distance from power lines and solar may be economically feasible as an alternative to putting in electricity. CET did a preliminary solar assessment, which helped Downhill Farm apply for state funding for the system. CET has continued to follow up with Wilder Brook Farm in Shelburne Falls about a small-scale solar system for water pumping for irrigation.

Downhill, Howden and Woven Roots Farms all attended CET’s farm tour at Bartlett’s Orchard and the neighboring Congdon house where attendees learned about efficiency improvements for refrigeration and had an opportunity to see a solar electric system in place and to learn more about it.

As previously reported, the Hadala Farm in Adams, MA began to approach wind power developers. In Spring 2004, it became evident that to interest a potential wind developer, the Hadala Farm needed more definitive maps showing the wind resources and their property boundaries. CET, in consultation with Atlas Renewables, prepared a preliminary assessment of the wind resource, using GIS data. The assessment identified property boundaries, examined the wind resources, and contrasted the wind speeds identified in the TrueWind Resource Maps for western Massachusetts to the actual landscape. We found that the TrueWind Resource Maps did not account for the elevation or exposure of the ridgeline along the eastern edge of the property. This means there may be more wind availability than appears on the TrueWind maps. Still, the ridgetop is only large enough for 1-2 commercial scale turbines. CET offered advice about approaching wind developers and suggested that the Hadala Farm might want to see if abutters would be interested in wind turbines to expand the economic possibilities for a developer.

The Harrier Field Farm in Schodack Falls, NY contacted CET about wind power for watering cattle in remote fields. CET has conducted an initial assessment of the wind resources and is currently researching options to help finance the project. Although mechanical pumping with wind has been widely used historically, there are not many existing models for this technology.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

CET has provided program services to 30 farms. Nineteen farms have received an energy assessment. Thirteen farms have installed energy efficiency measures with less than a one-year payback. Three farms have installed significant efficiency improvements and three efficiency improvements are in process. Eleven farms received an in-depth renewable energy assessment. Two farms are in the process of moving toward installing a photovoltaic system.

In preparing for this project, we assumed that a farm would move through a linear process beginning with an energy efficiency assessment and progressing to a look at renewable energy. In fact, we have found that farmers who have sought out efficiency improvements are not necessarily interested in renewable technologies and some farmers interested in renewable energy are less concerned with efficiency. Farmers interested in renewable energy seek us out, whereas we have had to do quite a bit of recruiting for energy assessments.

Note: Last year, we reported that Ioka Farm had fixed old issues with its lighting for a significant savings. CET has since learned that Ioka Farm decided not to make the investment in the more efficient fixtures, because the incentives available through the electric utility were not deemed sufficient to make the investment.


Cathy Roth
UMass Extension
P.O. Box 296
Middlefield, MA 01243
Office Phone: 4136236053
Nick Hiza
Atlas Renewables Incorporated (wind)
P. O. Box 64
Williamstown, MA 01267
Office Phone: 4135974644
Ruth Dinerman
Communications Director
Center for Ecological Technology
112 Elm Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Office Phone: 4134454556
David Knowles
Energy Specialist
Center for Ecological Technology
112 Elm Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Office Phone: 4134454556
Amy Johns
AmeriCorps*VISTA/Energy Specialist
Center for Ecological Technology
112 Elm Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Office Phone: 4134454556
Chris Vreeland
Precision Engineering Services (solar)
P.O. Box 746
Otis, MA 01253
Office Phone: 4132694965
Richard Drury
RCS Energy Services (efficiency)
P.O. Box 433
Leverett, MA 01054
Office Phone: 4133679683