|May 24, 2012 --
The practices that can help us save energy in our own homes, such as sealing leaks, insulating and updating cooling systems and replacing light bulbs, are also being used to make Georgia’s farming industry more efficient.
As part of USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), farmers can receive 25 percent of the funding they need to help make their farms more energy efficient. To apply, they need a certified energy audit of their farms, and that’s where a team of engineers led by Dr. John Worley, associate professor of engineering with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences comes in.
He and his team perform those energy audits and prepare an inventory of needed upgrades and the amount of energy each should save. The farmer pays $100 for the service, which is much less expensive than hiring a private engineering firm.
For the last five years, Worley’s team has been helping chicken farmers update their broiler houses to make them run more efficiently. So far they have audited about 1,000 of the 12,000 broiler houses in the state.
How Rural Development Helped:
Acting State Director USDA Rural Development Georgia, Quinton Robinson, presented Worley with a $100,000 Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant on May 24, 2012 to continue Extension efforts to advise farmers how to make their operations more efficient.
This grant will allow Worley to audit about 50 more farms between now and June 30, 2013. Based on past projects these audits could save enough energy to power another 5,600 homes.
The REAP Grants associated with these audits provide farmers with 25 percent of the funding needed to upgrade their facilities. The cost of retrofitting a chicken house can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on how old the house is and what needs to be done. Not every farmer who has his farm audited chooses to finish the grant application process, but most do at least one project to increase the energy efficiency of their farms.
The effort to help farmers run more efficiently is a collaboration between several agencies, including USDA Rural Development, UGA Cooperative Extension, and representatives of the Resource Conservation and Development Councils.