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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

May 2013

Welcome to this edition of EnergyAg Newsbriefs brought to you by the Washington State University Extension Energy Program Library. Please forward this issue to those of your colleagues interested in energy-efficient agricultural practices. Archives of past messages

While every URL in EnergyAg Newsbriefs is checked for accuracy prior to distribution, URLs may change, and servers may temporarily fail to connect to working URLs.


Nutrients in digested manure

"Transformation and Agronomic Use of Nutrients from Digester Effluent" was updated at on April 22. 2013. This well-referenced web article provides information about the transformation and bioavailability of nutrients in manure during and after the process of anaerobic digestion. The authors explain how anaerobic digestion can result in greater nutrient uptake efficiency by plants than either undigested manure or inorganic fertilizer.

Canola boom in Washington State

Acreage planted to Canola, mostly for harvest as a food oil crop rather than as a biofuel feedstock, is expected to increase in Washington State by about 67 percent in 2013. Rising prices, amenable weather, and its suitability as a rotation crop are some of the reasons farmers are choosing to plant more canola. To learn more, read "Canola acreage in Mid-Columbia Swells by 67 Percent," published April 20, 2013 in the Tri-City Herald.

Mature grasses make better biofuel

Studies show that the quality of biofuel made from perennial grasses is improved when harvest is delayed until after the plants reach maturity. A summary of the research is available on the eXtension website in "Research Summary: Biofuel Quality Improved by Delaying Harvest of Perennial Grass," updated April 8, 2013.

Oregon pilot biorefinery produces cellulosic ethanol

A pilot biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon, began producing cellulosic ethanol from locally derived poplar tree farm sawdust in March 2013. The plant has the capacity to produce up to 250,000 gallons of fuel per year; construction of a plant with 100 times the capacity of the pilot is expected to begin in 2014. To learn more, read "Plant Begins Producing Cellulosic Ethanol," published March 13, 2013, in Capital Press.


Dairy cooperative and non-profit organization to implement energy program

The Minnesota Project, an energy and ag-related nonprofit, and Hastings Cooperative Creamery, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative, will partner to develop a strategic energy efficiency program for dairies and electric utilities in Minnesota. The program will collect data about farm energy use, and then use the results to create a benchmarking tool; deliver energy audits; and help utilities, equipment suppliers, and farmers collaborate to improve dairy energy efficiency and profitability. Learn more in "Dairy Cooperative Partnerships for Increased Energy Efficiency," posted April 17, 2013, on the Minnesota Project’s Centered on Sustainability blog.

Dairy energy Memorandum of Understanding renewed

On April 24, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) renewed a Memorandum of Understanding to accelerate the adoption of waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms. The original agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009, helped secure funding for dairies through programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The renewed agreement will allow continued efforts by the USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. dairy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. To learn more, read the USDA press release.


Greenhouse energy efficiency upgrades

"Energy Savings Bloom for Growers" is a case study of a commercial greenhouse, Bauman’s Farm and Garden, in Gervais, Oregon. With the help of financial incentives facilitated by Energy Trust of Oregon, the greenhouse operation was able to save over $26,000 per year by implementing multiple energy efficiency upgrades. Projects included the installation of triple-polycarbonate greenhouse panels, a condensing unit heater, and a high-efficiency boiler.


Study to support efficient irrigation choices

The "Northwest Agricultural Irrigation Market Characterization and Baseline Study" was prepared by Navigant Consulting and published April 15, 2013, by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). This study examines the irrigation choices made by farmers in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon to characterize the market for energy-efficient irrigation products and techniques. The research will support the development of a decision making framework to promote energy- and water-efficient irrigation choices.

Energy efficient pumping

The following two articles appeared in the March 2013 issue of Pumps & Systems:

"Pump Systems for Today’s Agricultural Irrigation" was written by Vahan Bagdasarian of Grundfos. The author presents options for efficient choices in irrigation, and emphasizes that the right pumping system for the application will save energy and water and the dollars they both cost.

"Powering the Pump: Diesel Versus Electric Motors" was written by Tim Albers of Nidec Motor Corporation. The author notes that in 1992, diesel was cheaper than electricity, but now the reverse is the case, making electric-powered motors more attractive. Additionally, electric motors are low maintenance compared to diesel motors.

Remarks on farm efficiency at Conduit NW

In "Energy Efficiency Down on the Farm," posted to on April 8, 2013, Curt Nichols of ICF International compares variables in farm irrigation efficiency with those encountered when planning for the efficient heating and cooling of buildings. Examples are provided of agriculture-related entities in the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Three Sisters Irrigation District and Cow Power) that utilized partnerships and incentive programs to help fund and successfully implement energy efficiency projects. 


Advocates of Farm Bill energy programs reach out to Congress

On April 29, 2013, a letter signed by over 115 organizations was delivered to Congress in support of a renewed, revitalized Farm Bill with full funding for clean energy programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) and Biobased Markets Program (Biopreferred). For details, see the press release on, or read the full text and list of signees.

Test refineries for advanced transportation fuels

On April 22, 2013, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced the formation of four pilot-scale biorefineries, including one in Washington State, which will produce and test advanced renewable drop-in biofuels for military jets and ships. The raw materials for the biorefineries will consist of biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae. To learn more, read the DOE press release.


Wood products branch of eXtension

A new website from eXtension, Wood Products, will connect wood products industry businesses with academics in the field. The website features contributions by wood resource and forest products specialists from 74 land-grant universities across the country, and is designed to help farmers, business owners, and others learn to use wood products more efficiently and effectively.

Profile of Washington’s small farms

A "Profile of Small Farms in Washington State Agriculture" was released by Washington State University Extension in February 2013. Small farms are defined as those who take in less than 250,000 in gross sales; 90% of farms in Washington State fall into this category. The report shows an increase in the numbers of women and immigrant farmers, and cites the growing importance of direct marketing as an income-generating strategy.


Farm Walk: Organic Mushroom Production, Cascadia Mushrooms
May 13, 2013, 12:30 – 4:00 PM, Bellingham, Washington
Farm owner/operator Alex Winstead welcomes you to his farm where he’ll demonstrate the operation he designed and built from scratch in 2009. Located just north of Bellingham, it operates entirely on green power, and 90% of its byproducts are recycled. Come learn how Alex grows a wide variety of culinary and medicinal fungi: from substrate prep, spore inoculation, growing, then harvesting the fruiting bodies. Alex markets fresh mushrooms, plugs and growing kits. Experience first-hand the fascinating world of mushroom production.

Efficiency Exchange
May 14-16, 2013, Portland, Oregon
Efficiency Connections NW and the BPA Energy Efficiency Utility Summit combine this year to make one Northwest energy efficiency conference: Efficiency Exchange. Utility conservation managers, sector leads, executives, program managers and staff; efficiency industry and public interest groups; and energy efficiency program implementers, evaluators and researchers are encouraged to attend. Participants will connect with their peers, learn and share innovations, and gather ideas to take home.

Starting a Food Hub: Successful Hubs Share Their Stories
Webinar, Thursday, May 16, 2013, 1:45 PM PST
Food hubs hold great promise for a myriad of positive community impacts: economic development and job creation; farmland preservation; environmental sustainability; the list goes on. But how do you start a food hub? This webinar brings together the stories of the formation and first year of three different successful food hubs. Our presenters will share some of the best decisions they made - and some of the worst. What types of contacts did they feel really helped their business to thrive? How much money did they need, and how did they get it? Why did they choose their incorporation status? If you are an emerging hub, in the planning stages, or work with groups who are considering forming a food hub, please join us for inspiration and instruction.

E3T Emerging Technologies Showcase Webinar: Low Energy Precision Application Technology (LEPA)
Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 12:00 – 1:00 PM PST
Please join the Washington State University Energy Program on May 22 at 12:00 pm (Pacific Time) for a webinar on Low Energy Precision Application Technology (LEPA), as part of the "Emerging Technologies Showcase" series.  LEPA is a new irrigation system with potential to reduce energy and water use. Troy Peters, irrigation specialist with Washington State University, will discuss the technology, its use in the Pacific Northwest, and case studies from other areas of the country. A question and answer period will follow the presentation. 

Want to Contribute? If you have information on events, publications, or other ag-related topics that you would like mentioned in an upcoming issue of EnergyAg Newsbriefs, please contact Talia Mathews at