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OSU energy audits may uncover savings

A $370 Oregon State University Energy Efficiency Center audit of your ag operation’s power use could save about 10% of your monthly energy costs.

That estimate by EEC Agricultural Operations Manager Nathan Keeley is a ballpark, he admits, but he has no doubt that if he audits your operation, you’ll save money. “A simple tune-up of boiler and refrigeration units in a processing company can save you thousands of dollars a year,” he says.

On the farm, simply painting your fuel storage tank white can cut your evaporation losses, he notes: “A farmer can lose a third of what his fuel tank holds a year to evaporation,” says Keeley.

Tractors are a big source of potential energy savings, he adds. “Under-inflated tires can result in a 3% loss in fuel efficiency, and dirty air filters could be losing you 20% a year. Dirty oil filters can waste 5% a year.”

If you can use an ATV instead of a tractor to do some jobs, fuel savings can again be realized, says Keeley.

Recent EEC audits of farms, dairies and greenhouses “have all found significant ways to save energy,” he reports.

While around since 1986, the EEC did not begin to offer audits of agriculture until more recent years. Since then, Keeley says the experience gained by auditors results in “significant” savings.

With the faltering economy, it is more vital than ever to save energy dollars where possible, he says.

If you would like an EEC energy audit, the first step is to contact the team by phone to discuss pre-audit information, such as the number and size of equipment to be evaluated on site. Information such as utility bills, equipment lists and production numbers will be requested by the auditing team.

Key Points

• Completing an energy audit can save you money.

• Oregon State University provides energy assessments.

• Audits may help trigger funding for making improvements.

Team visits

The actual assessment will be conducted by a team, which includes a leader and EEC student assistants from OSU (one faculty member and a graduate student will likely be included on the team).

Team members will tackle individual testing areas on site and collect data. A report will be issued with recommendations on saving energy.

The team then meets with the producer/processor to review ideas developed during the assessment process.

After completing the evaluation and report process, follow-up visits by the team will be conducted to ensure client success with any changes. A follow-up call may occur within two weeks after the final report is issued.

Six months later, an “implementation” call will be made to determine which recommendations were implemented, with results compared to original findings and savings estimates.

After conducting such audits for industries other than agriculture for many years, Keeley feels the decision to provide the same service for agriculture “brings years of experience to do this job on the farm.”

And there is another plus with such audits, he adds: “Once you have gone through this process, you may be able to get some funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in making energy-saving adjustments.”

For more information on audits, call Keeley at 541-591-3845, or go online to the EEC Web site at eec.engr.oregonstate.edu.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.