The US Departments of Agriculture and Energy announced a collaboration – the State Energy Extension Partnership – to equip rural small businesses and households with the efficiency tools, resources and training needed to reduce energy costs.
The agencies are coupling the DOE’s energy efficiency expertise with USDA’s Cooperative Extension Service resources and leveraging USDA Rural Development programs to deliver financial and technical assistance across a vast network of state energy offices and land-grant universities. The State Energy Extension Partnership will support community-driven projects throughout rural America, including:
- Incorporating educational materials and technical assistance on energy efficiency and renewable energy into Cooperative Extension programs for youth and adults, such as the 4-H program
- Providing access to information on tax credit incentives and other financing mechanisms for deploying renewable energy projects
- Supporting rural communities’ energy efficiency and renewable energy goals to help create jobs, expand business opportunities and improve local economies.
In 2011, the DOE launched pilot projects for two years in Kentucky, Nebraska and Wisconsin to lay the foundation for this broader, national partnership.
For example, extension agents are working with the University of Wisconsin to develop an energy clearinghouse website that accesses resources from the University of Wisconsin website and the state energy office, including the opportunity to share information on projects and ask questions. They’ve also provided training sessions on purchasing and maintaining energy efficient grain dryers to help farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, state energy and extension staff are helping farmers use the university’s Crop Water App for quick, cheaper irrigation and teaching farmers to use modern sensors and other soil moisture and crop water use measuring devices to improve irrigation management. The Nebraska project is also creating an energy efficiency rating system for irrigation equipment, modeled after Energy Star.
In related rural news, the Nebraska Public Power District has launched a test program to use solar energy to provide electricity for agricultural, center-pivot irrigation systems.