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Reporting from the Field on the LED Pilot Project

January 30, 2012

I recently rode out to Darwin, MN with Michael Ostaffe of Once Innovations to visit Langmo Farms, one of the newest sites participating in our LED Pilot Project. There we met owner Greg Langmo and talked with him about his successful family-run turkey operation. Greg was instrumental several years ago in setting up the nation’s first
The scenery near Litchfield, MNbiomass power plant run on poultry litter – Fibrominn, LLC outside of Benson, MN – which makes use of the nearly 33 semi-truckloads of manure and litter that come out of a turkey barn over a year, and turns it into 55 megawatts of electricity. Now he’s interested in converting the lighting in several of his barns (perhaps all of them, eventually) to the brighter, more efficient light offered with LEDs.

Our pilot project is testing the energy efficiency, performance and durability of LED lighting in Minnesota livestock facilities. Through participating, producers receive a respectable cost share for installing Once Innovations’ LED poultry lamps, which are specifically designed for agricultural conditions. In exchange, each producer allows The Minnesota Project to collect data to formulate a report outlining the performance of the lamps. Besides taking light measurements, the systems will be monitored over the course of a year for actual energy use and overall performance. In the end, we hope the pilot project’s data with offer valuable information on the energy savings potential and dependability of LED technology for both poultry farmers and the utility industry, as well as suggesting options for use in other types of livestock facilities.

After going over the agreement for participating in the pilot project and then calculating what the costs and lighting installations would be in three of his barns, Greg drove us around the pastoral countryside surrounding Darwin and Litchfield. He waved at neighbors as they drove past and mentioned which were his favorite routes to go cycling in warmer weather.

Inside the first barn at Langmo FarmsAt the first site, we donned plastic boot covers and a protective zip-up suit for biosecurity concerns to avoid contaminating the site with any stray bacteria, viruses or fungi that might be harmful to birds or tracking anything from one site to another. This barn was between flocks and thus empty, which allowed us to easily walk through the fresh litter of wood shavings, shredded paper, and sunflower seed hulls and take light level measurements. Current illumination came from three rows of 75-watt incandescent bulbs, though Greg said the center row is used mainly for auxiliary lighting. Using a light meter, Michael measured the foot candles of light at key points across the width of the barn and I took down the numbers in such a way that we can replicate the location of the measurements once the LED lights are installed. These before and after figures will be used to analyze the effectiveness and replicability of LED lighting in Minnesota poultry operations.

Once we had our measurements, we took off our protective outerwear and left it onsite. We then made our way to the second turkey barn, where we repeated the suiting up process and entered to take initial measurements there. This second brooder barn had a large flock of curious, young poults in it already – maybe a couple weeks old – which made movement through the space a bit slower. Another difference was in the lighting itself. On the far side of the barn, there was a row of regular screw-in CFL bulbs with varying color temperatures and light quality. In the middle two rows of 75-watt incandescent bulbs gave the middle portion of the barn a yellowish glow. And on the side closest to the door, two rows of Once Innovation’s LED lights had already been installed. The contrast in light color and quality was apparent. You can see it in the photos I took. After we repeated the measurement process, we then left the barn. And I must say that it was quite the experience to emerge from the 80° F in the brooder barn out into the 0° F of the afternoon.

Inside the second barn at Langmo Farms

We’re pleased to have Langmo Farms involved in this project. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet Greg and learn more about his operation. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue working with new project partners, recording initial light levels and following up after new lighting is installed. And we’ll be back at Langmo Farms to see how things are looking.

Funds for the LED Pilot Project come from the Office of Energy Security’s Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) Grant Program. Minnesota is the nation’s largest producer of turkeys and because of this the industry was specifically targeted in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to improve its energy efficiency and pursue alternative options to the incandescent and florescent lights currently used in turkey facilities. With the results of this study, we hope to illustrate the potential for LED lighting in farms across Minnesota and to inform future energy efficiency decision-making throughout the state.

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