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Capture the Energy Savings!

October 16, 2014

One of our main objectives at The Minnesota Project is to help lower farmers’ production costs through conservation (consuming less energy) and energy efficiency (producing more with the same or less energy). If there’s a program offering financial assistance for new, energy efficient equipment, we encourage you to capture those savings!

On that note, we want to direct your attention to a USDA program called EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), under the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service).  EQIP provides significant funding for energy and land conservation projects. EQIP has three “ranking and scoring” deadlines set this year for October 17, November 14th and December 19th.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so if you missed the October 17th deadline, go ahead and submit for the November and December dates.

If you are interested in taking control of rising energy costs, use your first EQIP application to apply for an Agricultural Energy Management Plan. Step one for an agricultural energy management plan through EQIP is a farm energy audit.  Fortunately, EQIP provides funding for all requested farm energy audits.  Two weeks after your EQIP application, the NRCS office will provide you with an approval letter.  Then, you arrange for a Technical Service Provider (TSP) to visit your farm to assess your energy consumption by examining equipment, lamp fixtures, pumps, motors, insulation, etc.  The TSP will provide you with an extensive report, including recommended equipment upgrades or operational changes.  Once you have the report and show it to the NRCS officer, the NRCS writes a check for the value of the report you will use to pay the TSP.  In brief, the audit is provided at no cost to the farmer.

Once you’ve had a farm energy audit, you may apply to EQIP a second time for financial assistance on an energy conservation plan.  Conservation plans include lighting, ventilation, variable speed drives, and other upgrades.  Please note securing financial assistance through EQIP is not guaranteed. Applicants in the EQIP program compete with others across the state and are ranked and scored based on a number of factors, including cost effectiveness, kilowatt hour savings, the magnitude of expected environmental benefits, and project duration.

Most rural electric associations also offer financial assistance on new equipment. But unlike the USDA-NRCS, which will not provide financial assistance for projects that have started without their approval, rural electric associations will provide rebates for projects already installed, as long as the producer can show his costs and receipts. That is why we strongly suggest you apply to EQIP first, but ONLY if it’s right for you. We just don’t want you to miss any “free” money to help buy a new variable speed drive pump for your dairy farm or new LED lighting for your turkey barn. (And if you have natural resource concerns, you could also qualify for land-based conservation planning!). Nonetheless, it is still best practice to call your local utility and USDA service center rep before you start a project.

Local REA, USDA-EQIP, or both – we don’t care! We just encourage you to upgrade to technologies with paybacks and financing that work for your operation.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with the application process, please contact our Energy Program Director Fritz Ebinger, by phone at (651) 789-3330, or by email at FEbinger@mnproject.org.

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