Energy Trust of Oregon Outreach Manager Ulrike Mengelberg loves her job.
“We make a concerted effort to tell people about our incentives,” Mengelberg said. “I love the look on someone’s face when they realize ‘This person is not here to sell me something; she’s here to make me more efficient.’”
Energy Trust measures its success in kilowatt-hours and natural gas therms and offers incentives to greenhouse growers and farmers who implement energy-saving measures.
Last year Energy Trust of Oregon assisted with 123 custom irrigation projects, providing $660,600 in incentives, resulting in an electricity savings of $207,400. It issued 255 irrigation rebates totaling $323,800 and resulted in $228,600 in electricity savings.
One custom greenhouse project — a condensing boiler — involved $31,300 in incentives and a $13,000 savings in electricity. Energy Trust granted 12 greenhouse rebates totaling incentives of $31,000 and $33,000 in electricity savings.
“Two years ago we tripled our incentives on thermal curtains and intelligent greenhouse controllers,” Mengelberg said. “We used to reimburse controllers at 3 cents per square foot and now it’s 10 cents. I expect to see a lot more of those coming in.”
Incentives fall into two categories: Prescriptive measures in which growers simply buy the materials, send in a form with receipts and receive a check. Calculated measures require pre-approval.
Straight rebates for greenhouses include infrared polyethylene greenhouse covers, condensing boilers, thermal curtains, under-bench heating and intelligent greenhouse controllers.
“On calculated projects like new end walls they need to call for pre-approval,” Mengelberg said.
In recent years Energy Trust began offering licensed cannabis growers free technical services and cash incentives for the installation of energy efficient equipment.
“We get our funding from utilities, not the government,” Mengelberg said. “One of the fastest-growing segments of energy in the Northwest is going to be cannabis.”
On the farm, Energy Trust offers 14 irrigation measures, including sprinklers, nozzles, gaskets, regulators, drains and cut-and-press pipe repairs.
“I talk to irrigators all over Oregon and ask when they last changed out their nozzles,” Mengelberg said. “For some it’s been as long as 20 years. Irrigation contains grit and the water going through that nozzle wears it out and forms a much bigger hole than there should be.”
Calculated incentives for farmers involve pumps and variable frequency drives.
“A lot of times if they don’t have a VFD they’ll just throttle back, making the pump work harder, or pump the water up and dump it back right back into the irrigation ditch,” Mengelberg said. “A variable frequency drive lets them put out exactly the amount of water they need while running the pump more efficiently.”
Another calculated incentive is scientific irrigation scheduling that enables farmers to fine-tune their irrigation through soil moisture monitors, weather station data and evapotranspiration rates.