The Buzz Around Energy Efficiency

With energy efficiency being the buzzword that it is, I find that people usually have one of two reactions when they hear it. There is a group of people that get incredibly excited, drop everything that they are doing and listen intently to whatever the next words out of the buzzword dropper’s mouth might be, in hopes of hearing about what direction the latest and greatest, world changing technology will head in. The other group of people respond in almost exactly the opposite way. This group basically does the equivalent to putting their fingers in their ears while shouting out ‘lalalala’. Each group definitely has their reasons for these two reactions and all of these reasons are perfectly valid. That being said I am going to give the reasons why I consider myself to be in the first group.

The very first reason that I am a fan of energy efficient technologies is that they are just down right interesting. I see things like LED lighting, combined heat and power units, variable speed drives, tankless water heaters and other such technologies to be fascinating; much in the same way that I was enchanted the first time that I sat down to a desktop computer connected to the internet. What amazes me about these things is the depth of human creativity and how much easier we can make our lives with just a little bit of imagination.

The second reason comes right down to the wallet. Energy efficiency saves us money. Far too often I hear the saying, “farmers feed your family, then take a second job to feed their own”. I absolutely realize that this is our current reality here in Alberta. That being said, changing out non-energy efficient technologies with the efficient varieties are easy ways to reduce our yearly bills by a large amount, depending on what our current inputs are. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has done a few case studies on this and just on changing out the lighting alone on one colony farm, not only paid for itself within 9 months, but is now projected to save this farm over $15,000 per year. In a case study of a greenhouse, some simple changes were made, like moving the heat pipes in the nursery and sealing the roof and wall leaks. These changes would pay for themselves in four years and then save $2000 a year in energy costs after that. Case studies such as these have also been repeated with broiler retrofits. Any extra money that stays in my wallet at the end of the year is definitely welcome.

Of course the third reason for my excitement about energy efficiency is the one that is always lying somewhere in the background. Sustainability. If by making simple changes we can make life easier for our children and grandchildren, then in my mind it is well worth the effort. By becoming more sustainable both financially and environmentally, we are ensuring that there are healthy farms for our descendants to run in the future. I see energy efficiency as the first step to ensuring that this scenario is the one that my family gets to witness.

These are some of the reasons behind my passion for energy efficiency. The great thing is that there are programs such as the Farm Energy and Agri-Processing Program and the On Farm Solar Photovoltaic Program in place to help us get up and running with these technologies. If you are interested in energy efficiency and unsure on where to start, energy assessments are a terrific place to begin. These will give you a good idea of where the majority of your energy is currently being used so that you can start to make the changes that will save you money. The nice thing about energy assessments is that they are also funded by 50% up to $9000. There are currently three energy outreach officers in place around the province to answer questions and help with applications. In the north you can contact Amber Kenyon with Gateway Research Organization at (780)307-7849. In the east Lyle Lawrence with Lakeland College is your go to guy and you can reach him at (780)581-8403 and then in the south we have Vern Steinborn with SouthGrow at (403)894-0050. Let’s make our farming operations just that little bit more profitable by introducing some new energy efficient technologies!

Amber Kenyon
Gateway Research Organization