Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources
Jess Cook, Berkshire of Pioneer RC&D (BPRC&D), program manager for our Massachusetts Farm Energy Program and Devon Whitney-Deal of Communities Involved with Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) contributed to this post. The Farm Energy Program is a collaboration of BPRC&D and DAR helping to provide technical and financial assistance for farms across Massachusetts.
On the evening of August 22 at Crossroads Farm in Ashfield, a crowd of more than 20 neighborhood farmers and agricultural producers gathered for a solar thermal workshop hosted by the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program and CISA. This workshop highlighted the practical farm use of solar hot water, current funding opportunities for solar thermal, and what steps farmers should take to installing a solar thermal system.
Solar thermal – solar heated air or water – is a practical technology with a proven lifespan and range of applications for farms (in addition to residential and commercial uses). Depending on the system used, water heated by the sun can reach between 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures the water can be used for farm facility cleaning; farm housing and kitchens; food processing; aquaculture; space heating via radiant floors in farm offices, shops, packing sheds, or milking parlors; or under-bench or soil heating in greenhouses.
To determine if a solar thermal system is appropriate for their needs, farmers’ learned to evaluate several factors including: the volume of water needed to heat; if the season of energy production need matches the highest production period for solar energy in the summer; and what the target temperature is for air or water.
If you’re considering solar hot water, this is a great time to move ahead! The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) launched a Commercial Solar Hot Water Program, which commits funding resources for solar thermal plans (pre-design studies) and construction rebates. The studies are useful for farms that need heat for radiant floors, greenhouse heating or yogurt-making.
Solar thermal projects are also eligible for the Federal Business Investment Tax Credit or Treasury Cash Option worth 30 percent of the solar thermal system installation cost. (The Cash Option expires this December 31, 2011.)
Here are some tips to get started.
- Learn more about the technology and establish your current and future farm heating needs by reviewing your energy bills and speaking with installing contractors service providers.
- Talk with installers – request an on-site assessment, consider equipment options, and talk through costs and payback periods.
- Read up on MassCEC resources and funding support.
- Inquire with your public utility regarding support for efficiency upgrades for existing heating systems using electricity or natural gas.
Please contact our Massachusetts Farm Energy Program for assistance moving from project concept to implementation, and ask to be placed on our waiting list for a soon to be released copy of our guide for solar thermal use on farms, Massachusetts Farm Energy Best Management Practices!
Dam Ice posted on Mar 12
You may have noticed many “falling ice” signs around town. Personally, I recently counted five of them on my way to the coffee shop. The icicles and falling ice are actually caused by ice dams, and the Building Science Corporation (BSC) and Massachusetts Department of …Continue Reading Dam Ice
Fish Need Clean Energy, Too posted on Feb 18
Running a fish farm is an intense operation, one that requires a lot of labor and a large amount of energy. Currently, the McLaughlin Hatchery uses a significant amount of oil to heat its facility. The facility is going to replace its oil furnace with a renewable energy heating system, a new high efficiency wood pellet boiler and pellet storage silo that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 92 percent, save an estimated $11,432 annually, and reduce annual oil use by more than 5,000 gallons.
Wood Pellets are the New Oil for Regional Schools Reducing Fuel Costs posted on Feb 12
Did you know that it is possible to heat buildings in the northeast using wood biomass, a renewable energy fuel? With nearly one-third of total energy costs going toward heating our buildings, it is no wonder that Massachusetts school districts are searching for cheaper and …Continue Reading Wood Pellets are the New Oil for Regional Schools Reducing Fuel Costs