Farm Energy Fair features solar, efficiency options

Are you interested in cost-share or rebates for energy efficiency practices such as LED lighting, ventilation, pumps/motors or milk handling? Have you wondered what the return is for the solar PV systems you may have seen your neighbor installing? Where are the contractors for all this energy work?

Find answer to those questions and many more at the Northeast Iowa Farm Energy Fair Tuesday, June 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar.

The event will offer workshops about technical and financial assistance available for farm energy projects and a contractor expo. The event is free and includes lunch, but attendees must register at energydistrict.org/farmenergyfair/ by June 7 so NICC can plan the meal.

A win-win-win
Northeast Iowa farmers spend over $100 million dollars per year on energy. On-farm energy efficiency and solar energy are a major untapped opportunity to decrease electric bills, drive local economic development, and reduce environmental impact. The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a financial cost-share program that includes energy efficiency practices.

“USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) has financial assistance available for energy audits and upon completion of a certified audit, various energy saving practices may receive financial assistance through the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program)” says Michelle Schafers, Soil Conservationist at Winneshiek County’s (NRCS) Service Center. “USDA Rural Development also has energy grants for the farmstead.”

Schaefers  adds “When the profit margin in farming is narrow, producers look for ways to cut costs. One such method is by installing energy efficient practices which significantly reduces electricity and fuel bills.  The savings are more obvious for dairy producers during the summer peak times.”

“Energy Efficiency is great way to help the bottom line. The energy savings alone can justify the upgrade, but there are usually other benefits as well.” says Joel Zook, Energy Planner at the Energy District.“It’s not unreasonable to say that most farms could drop 20% of their energy cost from energy efficiency upgrades alone. Adding renewable energy can drop their electric bills even further, and it pays.”

“With installed solar costs down, and tax credits still available but scheduled to phase out, there has never been a better time than now to invest in on-farm solar PV” said Andy Johnson, Executive Director of the Energy District.
“All the electric utilities in our area have rebates available for many energy efficiency upgrades - especially lighting. We can help you navigate these various options - as well as USDA programs - and make sure you don’t leave any money on the table. Plus they can give you guidance on what practices will have the best payback.”

A day at the Fair
The event will start at 9:30AM when attendees can visit with numerous local agency professionals, farm equipment specialists, solar contractors, and lighting suppliers that are ready to talk to farmers about projects and share expertise. Vendors will be available again during the noon lunch hour and after the afternoon session.

The morning session from 10:30-noon will dive into information regarding farm energy efficiency including lighting, grain drying, dairy equipment, financial incentives, and technical assistance programs. Registered participants will enjoy a catered lunch by Northeast Iowa Community College’s culinary team.

The afternoon session runs from 1-2:30 and focuses on solar energy production and incentives.  According to Zook, many producers see a payback period of five to seven years on solar. Solar panels usually come with a 25 year warranty. “You can see how the savings can quickly add up.” says Zook.

Attendees will also learn about the 15% state and 30% federal tax credits that might make investing in solar worthwhile. Local contractors will available again from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Vendors include Tom Massman Construction, Perry Novak Electric, Decorah Electric, Sitler’s LED Supplies, Blue Sky Solar, Blake Electric, Wulfekuhl Electric, Iowa Wind and Solar, Timmerman’s Talents, Lang’s Dairy Equipment, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, USDA NRCS, Howard County Energy District, Clayton County Energy District, and Winneshiek County Energy District.

Mark Your Calendar
Those interested in attending the Farm Energy Fair can register at www.energydistrict.org/farmenergyfair or call Kristin at the the Winneshiek Energy District office 563-382-4207, ext. 4 to register by phone. Register by June 7.

The event is sponsored by Winneshiek, Howard, and Clayton County Energy Districts in partnership with Northeast Iowa Community College, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and ISU Extension and Outreach. To learn more about Energy Districts, visit energydistrict.org.
 

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