Michigan Farm Energy Audit Program – Auditor training

Audits performed by auditors certified by the Michigan Farm Energy Audit Program have increased the number of approved on-farm energy efficiency projects in Michigan.

The motivation behind the Michigan Farm Energy Program was the previous extremely low number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) energy efficiency projects approved in the state. At the time, Michigan had an abysmal ranking, and was tied last in the nation for energy efficient projects from 2003 to 2005 and eventually climbed to 46th in 2009. In comparison, other Midwest states like Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin were always ranked in the top five. Every year, millions of energy efficiency dollars flowed to those states. 

To make things worse, there were no certified farm energy auditors readily available in Michigan, which meant type 2 energy audits that follow the recommended standards established by ASABE/ANSI S612 as required by USDA were very expensive. In 2002, five audits performed for Michigan greenhouses cost $10,000 each. Today, a type 2 energy audit conducted by certified auditors under the program cost about $2,500. The program has worked with partners to subsidize the audit cost to agricultural operation, which now averages between $0 to $1,000 depending on the size, complexity and utility/program incentives.

The program designed a training module to certify and support farm energy auditors. Technical materials and calculation tools developed were cited in the ASABE/ANSI S612 national standards for farm energy audits.

Table 1 shows how Michigan fared before and after the first certified farm energy auditor training was conducted in the summer of 2009. Michigan rose to fifth in 2012 and then moved up to third place in 2014.

Table 1.  USDA Energy Efficiency Project State Rankings

1st 1st 1st
2nd 2nd 2nd
3rd 3rd 4th
4th 4th 5th
5th 6th 6th
46th (highest ranking) 5th 3rd

The Michigan Farm Energy Audit Program is coordinated by MSU Extension and the Michigan Agriculture Energy Council. Partnership with the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan, Commodity Groups, Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, USDA (Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service) and the Herrick Foundation has been key in this program’s development.

Auditor training comprises of four phases that cover a duration of 3 - 5 months. Training and certification are operation specific, meaning that the auditor is only certified in the operation in which he or she has completed the training on. The training strategies of the program cover several objectives that assist farms in setting energy efficiency goals.

Training Objectives

  1. Learn about operations on farms focusing on their energy use
  2. Learn about reduction of energy use while maintaining or improving overall productivity, safety and operator comfort on the farm.
  3. Learn to identify specific energy use applications and strategies for induvial farms where present technology allows for cost effective improvements. This may include alternative methods of accomplishing a task.   
  4. Be familiar with methodology for conducting farm energy audits.
  5. Be able to develop a Type 2 Farm Energy Audit report.
  6. Be able to complete requirements and be certified ad a Farm Energy Auditor.

The program has provided a source of employment and pride for displaced Michigan workers and those who have an interest in energy efficiency. Certified auditors from the program are not only conducting energy audits in Michigan but also in surrounding States. The program has incorporated alternative energy options to the whole farm concept of energy audits with some of the trained auditors working on alternative energy projects as well.

Training sessions usually start in the summer or spring. The program’s certification options include dairy, grain drying, irrigation, field crops, greenhouse, hogs, poultry, food and fruit processing and rural business.

For more information contact Aluel Go, goaluel@msu.edu in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University.

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