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Advancing Utah's Energy Future

Center-point irrigation is considered a highly efficient system which helps conserve water. It typically used less water, reduces the amount of soil tillage and helps reduce the amount of run-off and soil erosion that can occur with ground irrigation. Photo of Dove Creek. Photo Credit: Natural Resources Conservation Services, U.S. Dept of Agriculture.

Agricultural Energy Efficiency

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Utah’s agriculture sector is a major contributor to the state’s economy.  Utah’s agricultural producers account for ~$17.5 billion in total economic activity or 14.1 percent of the state’s total gross domestic product (GDP).   The agriculture sector also employs nearly 80,000 workers and contributes ~$2.7 billion in local wages and salaries.  This sector supports urban and rural economies and regions with $285 million in state and local taxes.  Additionally, the agriculture industry utilizes ~82 percent of Utah’s developed water supply.  Much like energy, agriculture is a core sector that affects all other economic facets and development sectors in Utah.

Many opportunities exist for farmers and ranchers to increase energy efficiency and conservation on agricultural operations and farmsteads.  Benefits of utilizing energy efficiency practices include reduced energy and fuel use, reduced operation and maintenance expenditures, increased production, and overall cost and water savings.  The Office of Energy Development seeks to support and promote efficiency and conservation measures on (and off) the farm.

To highlight the savings for energy efficiency practices, OED recently requested for two case studies to be performed on local farms assessing their energy and water usage, also known as an Agriculture Energy Management Plan (AgEMP) or an energy audit.  The first case study was performed on a dairy farm and shows that over 22% of their overall energy bill could be reduced if the producer implemented the AgEMP recommendations.  The second energy and water assessment (AgEMP) was performed on an alfalfa farm and addressed many options which could potentially save the rancher/farmer up to 50 percent of their total energy use with a 70 percent decrease in diesel.  The farmer/rancher could accomplish this by utilizing the grants and loans available so that they could tie into the electric grid and convert to electric pumps rather than using diesel generators as their source of power.

The focus of OED’s efforts and the Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program (AgEE) is to enhance awareness of financial support through grants and loans, and provide technical and educational training programs, and to support overall efforts in agriculture energy efficiency and conservation.  Links for these programs are included below.

Grant, Incentive, and Loan Programs
  • US Department of Agriculture
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
      • Agriculture Energy Management Plan (AgEMP)
        • An Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), commonly called an on-farm energy audit, is a valuable tool that helps you understand how energy is used on your farm. It provides guidance that can help you prioritize actions and plan equipment upgrades that improve energy efficiency.
      • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Grants
        • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.
      • Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs)
        • Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies.
      • USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
        • The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies.
      • Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
        • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm energy efficiency resource page. Find information about energy efficiency, technologies, ongoing research, policies and programs.