Energy efficiency is an unsung hero for small agricultural businesses and farms, and high upfront costs are a barrier for many to access the energy and cost savings from energy efficiency improvements.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is addressing this problem head-on through its Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, a pilot program that helps agricultural producers reduce energy consumption through the use of energy efficient technologies.

This program is supported in part by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) State Energy Program and helps advance shared goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs in the agricultural sector. Recently, DEP supported energy-efficient lighting upgrades at Dries Orchards in Paxinos, Pennsylvania, that reduced monthly electricity costs by 5% within two months, increased quality control, and boosted employee morale.

Launched in September 2021, the Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program provides rebates for up to half of equipment costs for a variety of energy efficiency upgrades, such as light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, fixtures and controls, energy-efficient ventilation equipment, and energy-efficient milk-pumping equipment.

A group of individuals in an LED-lighted warehouse packing apples.

New lighting in Dries Orchards' apple packaging space in their packaging and storage facility.

Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Dries Orchards, a 60-year-old family-owned business with 240 acres of fruit trees, took advantage of the rebate program to upgrade lighting fixtures in its apple packaging and storage facility to LED lights that use up to 70% less energy than traditional lighting. Since completing the upgrades in February 2022, Dries Orchards saw savings of 5% on its last monthly electricity bill, and the company expects to realize additional savings in coming months. 

Despite reducing the number of light fixtures by two-thirds, the lighting upgrades also created a much brighter workspace, improving quality control during the apple packing process and increasing overall employee morale. 

Dries Orchards Manager John Bzdil noted that deliveries would have to be unloaded next to windows to allow daylight to supplement the poor light quality from the old fluorescent tubes. 

With the better lighting in the packing area, Bzdil said there was a noticeable increase in product quality. For a business with 41 employees and an output of roughly 17 million hand-picked apples in 2021, this workplace improvement is nearly invaluable for employees and customers alike. 

DEP's Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program highlights how seemingly minor energy efficiency investments can have substantial positive impacts, especially for small businesses. 

DEP is accepting rebate applications up to June 30, 2022, and expects to continue the program beyond this first round of funding. DOE's State Energy Program looks forward to supporting the future success of the program and all of DEP's efforts to provide Pennsylvania residents and businesses with cleaner, healthier, and more affordable and reliable energy choices.

Watch a local TV news segment on the Dries Orchard upgrades.

DOE's State Energy Program provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and increase energy affordability. The State Energy Program emphasizes the state's role as the decision maker and administrator for program activities within the state that are tailored to their unique resources, delivery capacity, and energy goals.