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Upfront Costs Hinder Farming Energy Efficiency

By Kate Renner

LANE COUNTY, Ore. — Oregon’s farmers want to be energy efficient, but many can’t afford it. According to a report from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon farmers and ranchers are having a tough time with up-front costs to adopt alternative and renewable energy practices.

Some local businesses say the switch is paying off. Even on a cloudy day, Robin Pfeiffer’s solar panels are getting the job done.

“I just love to watch that meter when they’re generating, it’s going around like this… just saying, ‘Go baby, go,’ said Robin Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer Winery.

He had them installed three years ago for $240,000.

“You have to have that leap of faith, to put that money out there,” Pfeiffer said.

He says he expects the investment to pay off within the next eight or nine years.

“We’re using this much, but we’re generating this much, so we’re selling back to the utility,” Pfeiffer said.

In the past, we introduced you to Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis. There Bill and Karla Chambers built a plant to convert biomass to methane gas that produces electricity, steam and hot water.

“Where we would have normally spent a half million dollars on energy a year, we’re not going to have to spend anything on energy,” said Bill Chambers, Stahlbush Island Farms.

The Chambers’ say they had to look past the short-term cost to achieve their long-term goal of sustainability.

“I just can’t imagine any founder not wanting to leave healthier soil, healthier water, better technology,” said Karla Chambers, Stahlbush Island Farms.

Back at Pfeiffer Winery, as Robin Pfeiffer pours a glass of wine, he agrees that the return on his investment is as sweet as his chardonnay.

“Inner satisfaction that you are using a renewable energy source that’s not sucking the finite resources off the surface of the planet,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer Winery also has plans to harness the hydropower of a stream running through the vineyard.

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