From a business, as well as an environmental, perspective, many dairy farms across Massachusetts are now ”moo-ving” to become more sustainable through energy efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies. In fact, 17 dairy farms have implemented energy related projects through the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) over the past three years alone.
DAR provides technical and financial assistance for these farms through a variety of programs, including our own Agricultural Energy Grant and the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP), as well as a variety of state and federal energy programs and initiatives. These include the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; the Mass Save® energy efficiency programs; USDA’s Rural Development, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency programs; and federal tax incentives.
DAR’s technical specialists work with dairy farms towards the implementation of what we consider the best energy efficiency management practices. These practices include: refrigeration heat recovery (free heaters), milk plate coolers, variable speed vacuum pumps, energy efficient lighting, and high efficiency fan ventilation.
DAR also works to promote renewable energy applications such as photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines for electric generation; solar thermal and biomass for farm heating; and anaerobic digesters for comprehensive manure management and energy generation. For the latter, it is the dairy farm’s own resources (cow patties) that are helping contribute toward the farm’s energy goals!
Many farms have incorporated some type of applicable energy efficiency improvement, while some have installed renewable energy technologies. Though PV, wind, and biomass are the more common applications, we soon will see our state’s first anaerobic digesters in operation! DAR contributed over $325,000 in grant funding for these type of dairy projects, and in conjunction with our MFEP, has helped farms obtain the balance of funding needed to complete these projects by leveraging matching funding from other sources.
Energy savings vary by project; overall, each farm typically will achieve anywhere between 15 to 30 percent energy and dollar savings as a result of their implementation. Each project also reduces farm operations’ greenhouse gas emissions, providing both more energy and environmentally sustainable dairy farm operations in our Commonwealth.
Three photos with captions are from Mayval Dairy Farm, Easthampton Solar thermal evacuated tube caption photo is Appleton Farm, Hamilton Photo dated 1.11.11 is a roof-mounted PV project at Chase Hill farm, Warwick Photo dated 3.16.11 is a roof mounted PV project at Mapleline Farm, Hadley.