Agriculture and North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are the anchors of our state’s rural communities, each serving a critical need and contributing significantly to our economy. The history of the two industries is closely intertwined, as electric cooperatives were founded by farmers and grew from their hard work and ingenuity, and our prospects for working together in the future are just as significant as our past.
North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are committed to partnering with the agriculture community to improve the health, efficiency and vitality of our state. As the power provider for many of the state’s rural communities, electric co-ops are helping identify new ways to reduce farms’ carbon footprints, lower operating costs and provide added resiliency, productivity and convenience. Examples of these efforts include ground-breaking energy projects, the electrification of farm equipment and processes, and efforts to reduce farm energy costs.
North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives developed one of the state’s first self-powering agricultural microgrids, which incorporates alternative energy sources including biogas, solar and swine waste and uses them in coordination with one another to generate electricity and provide power reliability.
In addition to added resiliency, this partnership is allowing us to work together to lower carbon emissions and provide an educational resource for local teachers and students. We are continuing to develop other innovative efforts with farmers to achieve mutually beneficial goals that support our industries and communities.
Our state’s electric cooperatives are also helping identify new ways to electrify agricultural processes to improve sustainability, lower operating costs and provide additional productivity and convenience. Farm equipment like tractors, irrigation systems, robotic milking and automatic feed pushers, along with operations like controlled environment agriculture, can all be powered through electricity.
Opportunities also exist to electrify commercial equipment and processes ranging from forklifts and induction cooking to pumps and food processing and service equipment. Heating and cooling technologies like advanced heat pumps and electrified thermal and cold storage can also be employed to achieve industrial benefits and efficiencies. Rapidly advancing technology will continue to provide additional opportunities for electrification and the innovative use of electric power.
- Electric Irrigation: A new solution called a variable frequency drive system eliminates the need for costly infrastructure upgrades and allows farmers to irrigate without relying on diesel.
- Electric Equipment: Electric tractors are more efficient, quieter and cost significantly less to maintain than diesel tractors. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have capabilities and incentives in place to support the transition to electric equipment.
- Indoor Agriculture: The controlled, consistent environment of an indoor facility offers new economic opportunities for farm owners. Indoor agriculture is energy intensive, and the state’s electric cooperatives are working with indoor farmers to provide new solutions for energy management.
Reducing Farm Energy Costs
The North Carolina Energy Audit Program provides discounted energy audits to help farmers prioritize energy efficiency projects and access funding for equipment upgrades. It provides an unbiased third-party evaluation of energy efficiency and demand reduction opportunities, and each energy audit also includes a detailed inventory of current equipment and an analysis of energy usage by farm activity.
This program will cover 75% of the cost of an energy audit that can be used to access funding through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grants up to 25% of your project cost and loan guarantees up to 75% of your project cost. There is no obligation to move forward with projects once an audit report is received.
The North Carolina Energy Audit Program is funded by USDA Rural Development and operated by North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation and EnSave, Inc. It is offered on a first-come, first-served basis and funding is limited. Contact your electric cooperative or call EnSave at (800) 732-1399 for more information or to get started.