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Minnesota Farms Embrace Clean Energy

March 15, 2011

Minnesota Farms Embrace Clean Energy

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

USDA Report Puts Minnesota Ahead of Most States in Clean Energy Use on Farms

(ST. PAUL, MN) Minnesota farmers are leading the clean energy revolution in the agriculture world, according to a recent report from the USDA. The On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey issued just last month puts Minnesota farms ahead of the pack when it comes to methane production as well as the number and capacity of small wind turbines.

"Clean energy is critical to a green economy and jobs as well as a healthy environment for our children and future generations," said Mike Rothman, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which houses the state's Office of Energy Security. Clean energy is energy that comes from natural sources, such as sun, wind, water, biomass, that are renewable or naturally replenished. Energy efficiency and conservation are also considered to be clean energy measures. "It's re-assuring to see the state's farmers embrace clean energy technologies and realize real energy and long-term cost savings as a result."

Minnesota farms are home to 144 small wind turbines with an average generator capacity of 20 kilowatts, the report found, putting the state in first place for the installed capacity of 2.88 MW from small turbines.  Minnesota ranked No. 4 behind California, Texas and Colorado for number of turbines. The majority of the state's turbines were installed between 2005 and 2009.

In addition, while Minnesota has only 4 percent of the nation's farm-based methane digesters -- which use manure to produce methane and electricity -- those digesters produce twice the national average. Minnesota is No. 1 in the nation with measured production of 69.1 million cubic feet of methane per year. The national average is 30.5 million cubic feet per year.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture administers a Methane Digester Loan Program to help supplement the funds needed for livestock producers in Minnesota to begin installing digesters on their farms.

"The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is pleased to see our state's efforts in on-farm renewable energy highlighted in USDA's recent survey," MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson said.  "MDA's methane digester loan program helps by providing zero-interest loans to farmers to finance equipment and construction."

The trend of Minnesota farmers investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy still continues today. In 2010, nine new solar energy systems were installed on Minnesota farms with the stimulus funds from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

The USDA report, available on the USDA's website, provides information on energy produced by wind turbines, solar panels, and methane digesters that were in operation on farms in 2009. The energy survey provides an inventory of farm-generated energy practices with detailed data relating to the category or type of energy produced (wind, solar, and manure/methane digester), installation cost, percent of cost from outside funding, year installed, and total amount of utility savings from the use of on-farm renewable energy production.

Consumers and businesses interested in clean energy systems should visit the OES website at www.energy.mn.gov (click on "Renewables") and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society website at www.mnrenewables.org