CA: Bright ideas decrease reliance on fossil fuels

When it comes to energy use, California dairy farm families are implementing bright ideas to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Dairies are increasingly turning to energy-use-efficiency, conservation, and clean-energy technologies.
 
Dairy farmers are partnering with local utility providers to conduct on-farm energy audits, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes. By utilizing incentive and rebate programs to invest in the latest, most-efficient technologies, they are changing the way they light barns and milking parlors, pump water, refrigerate milk, and keep cows comfortable. These efforts reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by reducing the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation.
“Dairy families are actively looking for energy efficiency opportunities, to meet and save the most energy as well as be the most environmentally friendly they can,” said Justin Witte, Sr., Customer Relationship Manager with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).
Managing a dairy farm requires energy to care for animals, power milking equipment, chill milk, and more. Increasingly, California dairies are using energy-efficient fans, misters, and soakers to keep cows cool and comfortable during the hot summer months. They are also expanding sustainable energy practices inside milking parlors, with LED lighting, and energy-efficient pumping and refrigeration systems. These advanced technologies are often controlled by sensors to maximize energy savings.
 
Dairy farm conservation efforts are making a big difference. Individual farms have cut energy use up to 20%. By working with their utility providers, California dairy farms have saved or replaced more than 45 million kilowatt-hours of energy. That’s enough to supply electricity to more than 5,000 homes for a year.
 
In addition, more than 100 California dairy farms have installed solar energy systems to meet their energy needs and help the state meet its clean energy goals. A growing number of dairy farms are also producing renewable energy via digester technologies. By increasing their energy efficiency and offsetting energy needs, dairy farms are helping California reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
 
These advancements also come with financial benefits, helping dairies combat rising energy costs. In the last ten years, utility rates for California dairy farms have increased more than 50 percent. By upgrading to more efficient equipment and installing renewable energy technologies, dairy farm families are helping to reduce their energy bills, while continuing their longstanding tradition of environmental stewardship.
 
“For us, energy efficiency is a win-win-win for both dairymen and the state of California,” says Alicia Kilgore, Manager of Agriculture/Food Processing with PG&E.
 
As dairy farm families further reduce dairy’s carbon “hoofprint,” they are also helping protect our air quality and climate—preserving natural resources for generations to come—while producing nutritious and affordable foods that support the health of millions of families.
 
These efforts benefit the environment and quality of life for all Californians.