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Dairy farmer sees the light with LED

Staff writer

LED could stand for “light enhanced dairy” after an area dairy farmer installed a new lighting system with the help of a state grant.

Jason Wiebe, a dairy farm owner in Durham, recently received a $2,771 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant for replacing about 15 old metal hay lights in his free-stall dairy barn with approximately 30 LED lights.

“We try to keep them comfortable because a happy cow produces well,” Wiebe said. “Lighting is part of that. That’s why we had the metal hay lights before.”

Wiebe does not foresee increased milk production from his dairy cows because of the LED lights but he believes the LEDs will save him time and money.

“Maintaining the old lights got to be expensive,” Wiebe said. “Metal hay light fixtures don’t cost that much but the bulbs do, and maintaining them was time consuming. I changed a lot of bulbs when I had them.”

The grant paid 25 percent of his investment in the project, but he did not expect a fast payback on his investment.

“I did it for the reduced energy costs,” he said. “It might pay for itself in 10 to 20 years.”

Travis Snider, a Newton area representative for the USDA Rural a Development Business Program, provided more information.

“People shouldn’t disqualify themselves even if they live in town,” Snider said. “Anyone, anywhere in Marion County could potentially qualify for this program.”

Agriculture producers with at least 50 percent of gross income coming from agriculture operations and small businesses in an eligible area can apply.

Eligible areas include communities with less than 50,000 inhabitants.

Once qualified, funds may be used for the purchase, installation, and construction of renewable energy systems, including biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, solid fuels, wind and solar generation, insulation, lighting, cooling and refrigeration units, doors and windows, and electric solar and gravity pumps.

REAP grants are issued for a $2,500 minimum up to a $500,000 maximum sum.

Energy efficiency grants start at $1,500 and max out at $250,000.

“Saving money is always a good thing, and the positive environmental aspects of conserving energy are good byproducts of this program,” Snider said. “We’re always looking for more people.”

More information is available from Snider at (316) 283-0370, ext. 439 or email at travis.snider@ks.usda.gov.

Last modified April 13, 2016

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