How clean energy boosts Idaho dairies’ profits

Dairy farms are taking advantage of new renewable and efficiency options.

rbarker@idahostatesman.comOctober 15, 2013 

Idaho’s new clean-energy businesses have found ready customers on the state’s dairy farms.

“There are a lot of resources around us for both efficiency and energy generation to help farmers better leverage their assets, and, even more important, there are real ways to make these projects pay for themselves,” says Paul Conrad, president and CEO of Hailey-based Site Based Energy.

SBE helped Steve and Stacie Ballard of Ballard Dairy in Gooding to secure $74,000 in tax credits, efficiency incentives and grants to install solar- and energy-efficient systems at their dairy. SBE predicts the project will save $19,000 annually in energy costs.

The Ballards received the 2013 Innovator of the Year Award at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference in Corvallis, Ore., in January.

SBE performedproject analysis and collected data to create an agricultural management plan.

“SBE worked with us to really understand the problems we were having and helped us find the right solutions that improved our overall operation while saving enough money to pay for it,” Steve Ballard says.

Renewable Energy NorthWest, of Star, a member of the Idaho Clean Energy Association, and Progressive Dairy Service of Jerome partnered at the dairy farm of William Bokma in Twin Falls to increase milk fat and profits.

Chilling fresh milk in the holding tank as quickly and as gently as possible helps to maximize the milk-fat percent in the saleable milk. Solar water heaters preheat the water for cleaning up, and an energy-efficient chiller then captures the heat.

“Prior to the install, the milk was going into the storage tank at 84 degrees,” says Carl Simpson, owner of Renewable Energy NorthWest. “Now it is going in at 38 degrees. “

Progressive installed chillers and compressors at the Bokma Dairy that are expected to save $2,500 per year. The project expects to improve the milk-fat percentage by 15 percent.

The payback on the solar heaters is even greater than photovoltaic solar, because the energy conversion is dramatically higher, Simpson says.

Each solar thermal panel offsets about three tons of carbon each year of production, Simpson says. The expected life of the system is 20 years, offsetting 1,200 tons of carbon.


Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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