The Iowa Farm Energy Working Group has awarded $5,000 grants to three farmers with small to mid-sized operations to demonstrate how they can meet their energy needs through energy efficiency or the use of renewable sources on their farms.
The University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education facilitates the working group, which is funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.
"These grants will help develop demonstration projects so other farmers can see firsthand how the technology works and learn about costs and suppliers," says Kamyar Enshayan, working group leader and CEEE director. "Adopting technologies using on-farm resources for small and mid-sized farms offers many ways for farmers to reduce their energy use."
Wind power being used to supplement farm electricity use
All recipients are members of the working group and will present a demonstration of their projects later in 2010. The working group includes representatives from agriculture, policy, university, utility and farm organizations plus others with an interest or expertise in meeting on-farm energy needs from energy efficiency and renewable resources available on the farm as much as possible.
Mark Runquist and Linda Barnes, owners of High Hopes Gardens near Melbourne, will purchase a vertical axis wind turbine and conduct research to compare it to an existing traditional three-blade wind turbine on their farm that produces an average of 20% to 50% of their monthly electrical needs. High Hopes Gardens includes 7 acres of vegetables and fruits plus livestock.
Mark Runquist says, "Small and mid-sized Iowa farms are uniquely situated to produce wind energy to supplement their total farm electric use, but farmers often are reluctant to invest in unknown technologies unless they have a chance to observe, listen and evaluate wind turbines without the filter of the wind product salesperson or the company." He currently documents data from the three-blade wind turbine on his farm blog site.
Biomass burner can help reduce use of propane gas by 70%
Greg and Denise Hoffman grow fruits and vegetables on their 30-acre farm near Waterloo using sustainable farming methods as much as possible. They plan to reduce their energy use of liquid propane gas by 70% to 80% to heat one of six existing high-tunnel structures using a biomass resource (wood chips) burned in a wood furnace.
"We have a free source of wood chips from a local tree service so we want to use that waste product to grow vegetable transplants for the field," says Greg Hoffman. "We believe in hands-on learning and will gladly host field days to demonstrate burning wood chips to heat a greenhouse."
Jason Gomes, owner of Rainbow Ridge Farm near Waverly, will remodel two existing underground bunkers for better on-farm energy efficiency. One will become a cold storage chamber for thousands of pounds of sweet potatoes and potatoes. The other bunker will be retrofitted into a solar-powered curing/drying chamber for onions and other crops from the farm.
Underground bunkers used for better on-farm energy efficiency
Gomes also will compile a comprehensive instruction manual to encourage successful replication of the project among fruit and vegetable growers where cold storage and drying/curing capacity are common practices.
In addition to farmers, organizations involved in the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group include Iowa State Extension, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Alliant Energy, CIPCO, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Renewable Energy Association, Iowa Farmers Union, Environmental Law and Policy Center, USDA Rural Development, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Iowa Energy Center, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. For more information, go to the group's Web site www.ceee.uni.edu/farmenergy.aspx or contact group coordinator Carole Yates at [email protected].