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Farm Energy Auditor Training Program Off to a Great Start

October 27, 2011

Since receiving support from the Minnesota Division of Energy Resources in early September to develop a Farm Energy Auditor Training Program, we have been pulling together the pieces for this needed and worthwhile program for those interested in expanding their skills to provide energy audits to Minnesota farms and rural businesses.

Energy audits provide a comprehensive review of how a residence or business is using energy. Energy auditors are experts at determining what techniques and technologies could help people to save energy and money. Despite the importance of farms to Minnesota’s economy, little has been done to bring operations up to speed from an efficiency standpoint. Our training program’s focus on training energy auditors for farms will be unique throughout the state, and, in fact, most of the country.

Electric meter photo courtesy of Dean Sebourn, Flickr Creative CommonsAfter our training, participants will be able to:

  • Conduct on-site farm and rural business energy audits
  • Calculate the baseline energy use of operations
  • Provide energy-saving recommendations for technologies
  • Calculate the potential energy and cost savings associated with energy-saving recommendations
  • Help agriculture producers save energy and money
  • Assist with and write grant applications for federal and utility efficiency programs

For the inaugural Farm Energy Auditor Training Program, The Minnesota Project is working in collaboration with GDS Associates, a national company that has provided hundreds of energy audits and energy auditor training, to develop the curriculum for the classes. GDS will draw from their catalog of energy audit data and experience to craft instruction based on actual rural business energy management. Some of the areas covered by the program include poultry, swine, dairy and beef operations, greenhouse and grain operations, grocery and convenience stores, as well as a lesson on grant writing to help familiarize participants with federal funding applications. We are also working with a number of professional engineers, energy advisors, and state agriculture and energy stakeholders to make this program successful.

We are excited to offer this training through an online, interactive webinar format. This will allow our program to be accessed by would-be auditors in all areas of the state. Class will convene once a week for eight weeks, with three site visits to supplement the online learning and a final assignment to conduct an on-farm energy audit. Ultimately, the modules will be available to participants for download off The Minnesota Project website and as a CD-ROM during and after the initial training program. Stay tuned for an expanded webpage section for this information.

Red barn photo courtesy of Tim Wilson, Flickr Creative CommonsThe first training begins November 16th and already we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response. Within a matter of minutes of sending out an email on the program, we received enough inquiries to fill our entire training program for the inaugural class.

While we are delighted at the amount of interest in the program, we are disappointed that we won’t be able to enroll everyone this time around. We plan to offer the training program again in early 2012 but want to keep the training sizes small in order to ensure each trainee is offered the attention they deserve.

Thanks again to everyone who has expressed interest so far. For those who weren’t able to get into the first round of trainings, we have started a waiting list to be first in line for the second round. We hope you’ll stay in touch and let us know if you are interested in taking part in a future training.

The Minnesota Project has many years of experience providing educational programming and over the past year has been increasingly engaged in improving energy efficiency in Minnesota’s farm communities. The Farm Energy Auditor Training Program represents an exciting extension of that work and was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Minnesota Department of Commerce through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

If you have any questions about the program moving into the future, or just want to talk about farm energy efficiency opportunities throughout the state, please contact the Clean Energy Program Manager, Jake Fischer, at 651.789.3330 or by email at jfischer@mnproject.org.

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