A pilot project that Great River Energy, Runestone Electric Association, the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Minnesota-Morris are working on to evaluate a Zero Net Energy dairy farm has recently undertaken the installation of a powerful data collection system as an important next step.
A Zero Net Energy facility is one where the total amount of energy used annually is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. Both wind and solar generation were installed in 2017 at the 250-head dairy farm, which is affiliated with the University of Minnesota-Morris and served by Runestone.
“This project aims to evaluate how Zero Net Energy works at a research dairy farm and focus on understanding the thermal energy flows and opportunities for heat recovery and energy efficiency,” said Jeff Haase, Great River Energy’s strategic energy and efficiency program representative. “It also will help us evaluate grid impacts and electrification opportunities associated with renewable energy production at the farm.”
The data collection system being installed is a transformer monitoring system.
“The data will provide a much clearer picture of the way electricity is flowing within the facility. By understanding the quantity and direction of the flow of electricity, we can begin other scenario analysis to evaluate other types of electric end uses. From there we can maximize the on-site use of renewably generated electricity,” Haase said.
Haase said this level of data collection will also allow Runestone to better understand the cost of serving an end-use member that has a significant amount of renewable energy generation. Since the size of the farm is fairly common, other member cooperatives will likely benefit from the research as well.
The project began in late 2016 and will continue through December.