Some Virginia farms producing their own energy

HALIFAX—Virginia farms are beginning to use energy technology such as wind turbines, solar panels and anaerobic digesters in hopes of cutting energy costs and farming in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting a survey this year of 20,000 farms nationwide that produce their own energy. "The results will provide agricultural producers, policymakers and the public with factual data about the economic and environmental implications of on-farm energy production," said Herman Ellison, director of the Virginia field office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Halifax County Christmas tree grower Jenny Hochstein recently installed a wind turbine on her farm. "We have a nice breeze here," she said, and the turbine "operates on wind speeds 7 mph and higher."

Her electricity bill for $10 in April indicates the turbine is making a difference. "We don’t expect that the turbine is going to make all of our energy, but we wanted to be involved in the green transition," Hochstein said. She invested about $14,000 in the installation. They received grants that paid for about 60 percent of the total cost.

"It will take five years to pay for itself," Hochstein said of the new system. "We could have bought a hybrid car, but it would have cost twice that much and cars depreciate. … It’s for independence and self-satisfaction for doing something for the Earth. We did it so we could save resources."

Contact Chris Cook, VFBF agriculture enterprise development coordinator, at 804-290-1111 or Hochstein at 434-476-8771.

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