Energizing Agriculture

Winneshiek Energy District has been awarded over $400,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop and implement an agricultural energy efficiency and renewables initiative over three years. The initiative will include the six Northeast Iowa counties of Winneshiek, Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard, and Chickasaw.

“Farmers aren’t too different from the rest of us” says District Director Andy Johnson, “they lead busy lives and energy isn’t always top of the to-do list. Their potential return on investment, however, may be orders of magnitude greater than yours and mine, and cost-effective opportunities are tremendous right now thanks to a convergence of technology, price drops, and incentives.”

To help farmers identify and capitalize on these opportunities, the District will develop and implement a technical energy planning program. “From solar PV, wind, and biogas to efficient lighting, pumps, ventilation, and field operations, we’ll do the analysis to help farmers identify opportunities, connect with financial incentives, and implement cost-effective projects” said Johnson.

The District’s preliminary analysis suggests well over $100 million is spent on agricultural energy inputs in the six-county region. “We look forward to working with all our partners, including the agricultural, conservation, and utility communities, to keep those energy dollars local”, said Johnson.

“We’re seeing a great deal of interest in energy measures and conservation planning”, according to Todd Duncan, District Conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Winneshiek County. “No question the planning and other services the Energy District provides will be a very positive resource for our local producers going forward.”

The grant was one of 47 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) approved nationally, totaling $15.7 million. CIG is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program of USDA-NRCS.

The Energy District will be developing planning materials and capacity, and beginning outreach, through the fall of 2014. Planning and related services will be offered by the end of the year. Meanwhile, interested farmers can contact Johnson directly, at 563-382-4207×1#, or andy@energydistrict.org, with questions or to be added to the contact and signup list.

NOTE: USDA’s press release includes links to the full list of approved projects.

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