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Energy Use on Farms and Ranches

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2005 energy costs account for up to 50 percent of operating expenses in growing major field crops. Several articles and factsheets on waste-to-energy and solar energy have been produced recently that provide helpful suggestions on ways to reduce energy use in irrigation, in buildings, in the field and on the range. And for those who grow potatoes in Nebraska using irrigation, a timely factsheet is highlighted. Even a way for a small town to generate power cheaply is featured.

solar shingled barnAg Applications for Solar Energy
Solar energy can supply or supplement many farm energy needs. The U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Savers” website offers information on agricultural applications of solar energy including crop and grain drying, space and water heating, greenhouse heating, remote electrical supply and water pumping. A list of 16 different resources is provided.

waste process tank Rancher Takes Waste-to-Energy to New Level
A Ft. Morgan, Colorado cattle feeding business profiled in a Western Area Power Administration publication is using cutting-edge technology to join the small but growing group of feedlots that generate electricity from manure. Instead of using a conventional covered pit, this innovative technology uses an above-ground, stainless steel tank that processes the waste in one-quarter of the usual time. The completed system is expected to produce up to 8 megawatts of electricity and an estimated $2.5 million in yearly income from energy and compost sales.

landfillSmall City Utility Mines Landfill for Power
Murray City Power in Utah went looking for a low-cost, reliable source of renewable electricity and found it at the local landfill. This town of 16,000 and the locally-owned public utility expect to be generating 3 megawatts of electricity from its landfill by the end of 2005. The project teams companies experienced in generating electricity at landfill sites with the city residents who wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy used in the town. potato irrigation

Scheduling Irrigation for Potato Crops
“Efficient Irrigation Scheduling,” by Dr. Clint Shock outlines methods for reducing water stress on potatoes which can affect a crop’s suitability for use as french fries and result in lowered prices. The use of scheduling addresses both over- and under-watering of the crop and how to avoid it.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Options
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offers a number of technologies that can be used on farms and ranches on their web site. There are also a number of agribusiness opportunities in renewables such as wind and biofuels.

Irrigator’s Field Guide
A new edition of the Irrigator's Pocket Guide is available from the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

This 158-page "take-to-the-field guide" was developed in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and includes clear and detailed maintenance and troubleshooting procedures for irrigation pumps, motors, engines, control panels and distribution systems. The book also includes a step-by-step guide to irrigation water management for sprinkler, surface, and micro-irrigation systems, with irrigation guidelines for over 30 common crops.

Eight different state-specific versions of the Pocket Guide were distributed earlier this summer in California, Florida, Maryland, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming. A second printing is scheduled for this fall. More information about the Irrigator's Pocket Guide and how you can order copies is available at the National Center for Appropriate Technology.
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