Farm Energy Use and Audits
Energy audits became popular after the 1973 oil crisis. They have evolved to become a useful tool on the farm for improving profitability while conserving resources and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Performing an audit can vary in scope - from looking at a single energy expense to evaluating all energy inputs plus water conservation, etc. It can vary in complexity from self-performed to professionally performed audits using computer simulation. Recently, some government agencies, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, have begun to require energy audits prior to participation in agency programs. These inspections, which involve detailed gathering of field data and engineering analysis, are conducted by a professional auditor who focuses on identifying conservation measures and potential capital-intensive projects. Whether a farmer chooses to self-evaluate or bring in an expert depends on the needs of the farm.
All energy audits should include review and analysis of energy records, a walk-through of the farm facilities characterizing equipment and systems, and identify specific energy conservation opportunities.
- Review and analysis of energy records (e.g. fuel and electric bills) can be very helpful in pinpointing areas for potential improvement. When combined with building plans and basic information about mechanical systems and equipment, a detailed analysis of energy use and costs, preferably over a period of at least a year, can often identify significant opportunities for energy savings.
- A walk-through is an opportunity to appraise the condition and operation of energy using systems. On-site measurement and testing is an essential aspect of a detailed audit performed by a professional, and can serve several purposes. Measurement of performance over a period of time can identify short and long term trends. Direct measurement of equipment or system performance is often more reliable and accurate than manufacturer’s data or engineering analyses.
- Specific energy saving options can be identified and used to find ways to reduce energy consumption, alter the type of energy used, or suggest renewable energy strategies.