Taming Agriculture’s Energy Hogs 

Sam Anderson, energy specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, oversees the state’s ACRE3 program that provides agricultural producers with grant funding for energy-efficiency projects and renewable energy. 
James Baltz Jat6cn6zl8m Unsplash

Sam Anderson, energy specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, oversees the state’s ACRE3 program that provides agricultural producers with grant funding for energy-efficiency projects and renewable energy. 

Return on investment depends on the type of operation. “Dairies and year-round greenhouses are incredibly energy-intensive,” Anderson says.  

READ — Colorado Agtech Hits Critical Mass

The program funds projects ranging from LED lighting to agrivoltaics—solar systems integrated with agricultural operations— to hydropower systems that can recover energy from runoff. 

“There’s no other state that has something similar,” Anderson says of the last project category, which he developed in 2014. “One of the interesting applications developed is a way we can allow farmers who have remote fields to irrigate to install center pivots, when maybe the nearest electricity is four or five miles away.” 

Some of the projects are not exactly high-tech, but they’re definitely tech. “Most of the irrigation pumps in Colorado are operating at very low efficiency, because they’re very old and weren’t maintained very well,” Anderson says. “Those pumps consume about half of all the electricity in agriculture in Colorado, so there are tremendous amounts of opportunities there.” 

A typical year of ACRE3 grants is $500,000, but that ballooned to $3 million due to an influx of federal funding in 2021. Anderson says he literally couldn’t vet enough projects to fill the timeline requirements of being implemented in two years, but he was able to award $1.6 million of the total. “That was quite a year,” Anderson says. “That was still three or four times what we normally spend.” 

 

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

Categories: Energy