America’s farmers have worked for generations in fields across the country. They have seen firsthand how farming equipment has improved over the decades to increase efficiency and to feed an ever-growing population.
A major change is the trend of switching fossil fuel-powered farming equipment toward electric models. This trend builds on the idea of beneficial electrification, where switching to an electric end-use technology satisfies at least one of the following conditions without adversely affecting the others:
- Saves consumers money over time
- Benefits the environment, improving product quality or consumer quality of life
- Fosters a more robust and resilient grid
Historically, the most common form of electrification for farms has been electric irrigation pumping systems. Irrigation systems are crucial for many farmers and can make or break the crop yield for the entire year. Water heaters are the second most-used forms of electric technology on farms. They can be used for many different purposes, such as dairy farm processing, sterilizing equipment and general cleaning.
There are many benefits of replacing diesel motors with electric motors. Highly efficient electric motors can operate at 90% efficiency, which helps to provide cost savings over time, compared to diesel motors that operate at 30% to 40% efficiency. Farmers can simply plug in the electric equipment, eliminating the need to refill a diesel tank. One of the greatest benefits of electric motors is they do not emit fumes, which means farmers work in cleaner air.
Some farmers are making the switch to electric tractors as companies like John Deere, AgCo and other companies continue to perfect electric models.
As these technologies are adopted by farmers, manufacturers are working to improve battery life and reduce prices. Electric farm equipment has lower fuel costs, but the often come with higher initial costs. However, there are federal and local government programs that can help to lessen the upfront costs for farmers.
Electric cooperatives can also help farmers in their local territory with energy audits to identify energy efficiency opportunities, or with applying for funding from federal programs such as the Rural Energy Savings Program or the Rural Business Development Grants.
Despite these challenges, there are opportunities for expansion, especially for electric tractors and other electric farm vehicles which are used on many different types of farms. With more time and investment, electric farming equipment will likely become more widespread in the coming years.