Farm Energy

Spotlight on energy savings: Upgrading to LEDs on the farm

March 2020

A 2019 report by Minnesota Farmers Union found that while energy makes up only approximately 5% of all farm expenditures, energy is one of the only costs that a farm has some control over.

Energy-efficient LED lighting offers great potential for energy savings across farm operations. We'll also cover other energy-saving measures—and solar, too.

There's an efficient LED bulb for just about every fixture and application imaginable—from standard bulbs and linear tubes to yard lights and grow lights.

LEDs have become extremely popular because they produce excellent light using far less energy, reduce maintenance, and can even offer production benefits for livestock and crops.

The cost of LED lighting has come down dramatically in recent years, too, making payback even faster. On top of that, electric utility rebates and Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing have made paying for it even easier.

LED Lighting in Operation

A family dairy farm worked with their electric utility to explore energy efficiency opportunities. They landed on LED lighting upgrades, among other dairy technology improvements. Just switching their dairy parlor lights from fluorescent tubes to LED tubes resulted in hundreds of dollars a year in energy savings and hundreds of dollars in one-time utility rebates.

A 2013 study of LED lighting in turkey barns showed that switching to LED lighting led to calmer birds and no measurable poultry production decrease—that was on top of an average energy savings of $2,000 per barn from upgrading to LEDs, a payback of three years or less.

Other Improvements & Energy Assessments

Beyond LED lighting, other on-farm energy-saving opportunities depend on the operation. High-impact technologies include variable frequency drives, automated controllers, high efficiency grain dryers, refrigeration heat recovery, and high efficiency space and water heating.

To find out what opportunities you have to save, you can get an on-farm energy assessment tailored to your operation. The assessment will help you determine the amount of energy used by the entire operation, and identify the short- and long-term measures you can implement to conserve energy and achieve greater production efficiencies. Often your electric utility will offer some form of energy assessment—contact them to learn more.

There has also never been a better time to consider adding a renewable energy system to your operation, particularly solar.

Most farms have plenty of room for solar arrays that can significantly offset their electricity use and provide a long-term hedge against rising energy prices. A federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation, other incentives, and PACE financing all combine to make a strong case for solar.

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