Ferrisburgh dairy farm benefits from energy efficiency

FERRISBURGH — Brace Farm Inc. off Little Chicago Road in Ferrisburgh is slated for $94,000 in lifetime savings — a direct result of making energy efficiency business improvements by working with Reed’s Equipment in Vergennes and Efficiency Vermont. The 58,300 kWh in annual electricity savings showed a direct cost benefit in the first year, saving the farm $7,600 by implementing a series of energy efficiency projects.

Tucked between the Otter Creek and two Lake Champlain tributaries, Brace Farm is a small dairy farm that has been owned and operated by the Brace family since 1984. Current owners Alex and Michelle Brace milk 140 Holsteins twice a day and ship more than 4 million pounds of milk per year via the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.

Collecting, cooling and shipping this volume of milk is an energy-intensive process, and keeping the two barns lit and properly ventilated also adds to the energy requirements of the farm. Alex Brace takes significant steps to manage his energy use and to use energy more efficiently, all while maintaining milk production and preserving the longevity of his equipment.

PRECOOLING MILK, CAPTURING WASTE HEAT

One of the first projects was the installation of a plate cooler, which is a heat exchanger that uses water to precool milk, reducing the energy required by the refrigeration system to cool the milk in the bulk tank. Equipment vendor Todd Reed of Reed’s Equipment helped size the plate cooler properly and Efficiency Vermont helped cover a portion of the equipment costs. The plate cooler is saving 13,811 kWh annually, which amounts to approximately $1,750 per year.

Every dairy farmer knows that proper sanitation and high milk quality go hand-in-hand. In order to ensure milking equipment is sanitized properly, a constant supply of hot water is necessary. To reduce the energy required to heat his 120-gallon hot water tank, the Braces purchased a new heat recovery unit. This unit captures the waste heat from their bulk tank compressor to pre-heat the water so that the hot water heater doesn’t have to work as hard. Alex replaced his old tank (which had sprung a leak), and Efficiency Vermont helped subsidize the cost with a $1,000 rebate on the cost of the equipment.

“This equipment is a no-brainer,” Alex said, “and it’s very cost-effective.”

INCREASING VENTILATION

To ensure his cows were comfortable and the air in the barn was being exchanged properly, Alex determined that one section of his barn needed to exhaust more air. He purchased an energy efficient exhaust fan for the tie stall barn, and Efficiency Vermont was able to provide some financial assistance to purchase a more efficient fan model. With his barn properly ventilated, his herd is exposed to less heat stress, which keeps milk production more stable through the summer months.

More recently, Reed’s Equipment helped install a variable frequency drive, or VFD. on the milk pump at Brace Farm, which allows the pump to run at different speeds depending on actual need. When not running at full capacity, less electricity is used. Efficiency Vermont also helped subsidize the cost of this installation. This new VFD holds the vacuum level better, which allows for milking times to be faster — and it’s better for the cows, too.

EVEN LIGHT DISTRIBUTION

Alex also took advantage of the rebates that Efficiency Vermont offers for agricultural lighting. He installed vapor-proof linear fluorescent lighting that was both more efficient than his old lighting and provided better light distribution.

“The light output is great,” he said.

Alex also changed out the older, less-efficient lighting in his shop.

Brace Farm and Reed’s Equipment are discussing the installation of a variable speed milk transfer unit, which would slow the flow of milk through the plate cooler in order to maximize the heat exchange and will further reduce the burden on the compressors cooling the bulk tank.

Learn more about energy efficiency support for farms and food system businesses at www.efficiencyvermont.com/ag.

Energy Efforts

-- $7,600 in first-year savings

-- $94,000 in lifetime savings

-- 58,300 kWh electricity savings per year

Editor’s note: J.J. Vandette of Efficiency Vermont is chair of Farm-to-Plate Energy Cross-cutting Team.

This story was originally released in a series of case studies showcasing farms, businesses, vendors, installers and technical assistance providers who have made a difference with energy efficiency savings and renewable energy production — all of which are components for helping Vermont reach the renewable energy and environmental impact goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. Learn more at www.vtfarmtoplate.com. 

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