(Co-authored by Mark Inkrott, co-founder and partner of UpField Group)
If you’ve been paying attention to the dairy industry, you know that great progress has been made at the farmgate to reduce the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk in recent years. Innovative technologies, water recycling and usage and continuous on-farm energy improvements have been adopted by producers across the country to address the growing consumer and environmental demands for responsibly produced products. And more of the same is on the way.
With a growing demand for responsibly produced food and tighter regulations placed on producers, the dairy industry proactively set 2050 goals to ensure producers and dairy remain a staple in the fabric of our country. The 2050 U.S. Dairy goals are:
- Reaching greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality
- Optimizing water use while maximizing recycling
- Improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients
To reach these goals, there will need to be innovative energy solutions incorporated within the supply chain. Clean energy production and usage will most likely indefinitely be a power source in the future agriculture sector, at least in some capacity. And the team at EnTech Solutions is here for it.
What is clean energy?
Clean energy, also described as renewable energy, comes from natural sources and processes that are constantly refilled. For example, solar and wind can produce energy at varying levels, depending on time and weather. On a dairy, manure and farm waste are a constant as long as there is livestock, and this waste can be processed into renewable energy.
What does clean energy look like on a farm?
EnTech Solutions and our partners Northern Biogas and Aqua Innovations, along with Middleton, WI dairy producers, developed a zero-carbon emitting farm of the future as an example of how a dairy can utilize clean energy sources such as anaerobic digestion, solar panels and battery energy storage to reduce operational costs. It can also generate an additional income stream to their milk product.
For the strategic thinking producer, clean energy is not only available to them now, but it is also the long play. Clean energy solutions have been integrated into the world infrastructure for decades. As environmental pressures build and approach the farmgate, future producers will either be leading or catching up. While all sources of electricity and energy result in some GHG emissions over their lifetime, renewable energy sources have considerably fewer emissions than traditional fossil fuel energy sources.
Additionally, clean energy ensures a farm has a reliable source of power. During times of outage, a farm powered by clean energy and battery storage will not be susceptible to outside factors; it will function as its own power source, ensuring livestock and buildings are safe.
Is clean energy economically viable for a farm?
Clean energy is an investment, and like any investment it must make a return to be a good one. It not only addresses the triple bottom line (environmental, social, financial) performance, but clean energy systems in many cases also produce a surplus of energy that can be sold back to the grid or pipeline to provide an extra revenue stream. In addition, there are a growing number of federal and state level tax incentives and rebates available to producers who install renewable energy systems on their farms. Clean energy systems over time will pay for themselves, and once the break-even point is met, an operation essentially becomes energy independent. Additionally, the capital expenditure required by a producer in many cases can be offset by partnerships and investors who have a mutual interest in the development of renewable energy projects.
By working with EnTech Solutions and leveraging our Energy DNA™ modeling tool, it is possible to model and predict the viability for a particular project, which considerably reduces risk and guides producers to find the best path forward.
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