The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently awarded a $75,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to a new propane-powered energy efficiency project. The research, a joint project of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the Railroad Commission of Texas, will test an innovative power generation system on a Texas dairy farm.

“The Railroad Commission of Texas is honored to receive funding both from PERC and NRCS,” said PERC Agriculture Advisory Committee member Dr. Steve Jaeger. “The support of both organizations proves we are on the right track to find environmentally friendly technologies for the U.S. agriculture industry.”

NRCS provides grants to organizations that will develop or utilize innovative technologies to provide solutions to environmental issues affecting the agriculture industry. PERC also supported the project with a grant.

The Railroad Commission of Texas's Alternative Fuels Research and Education Division (AFRED) will manage the project to monitor the efficiency of a combined heat and power (CHP) system in generating electrical power and supplying hot water to the dairy. The CHP system will utilize three propane-fueled micro-cogenerators to produce the electricity.

A portion of the engines' waste heat will be recovered from the exhaust system and used for “tri-generation” to increase the energy efficiency of the 250-head, commercial dairy operation. Tri-generation uses the recovered waste heat both to heat water to sanitize the dairy shed and equipment, and to operate an adsorption chiller. This eliminates the need for additional energy to operate a hot water heater and an electrical, chemically refrigerated chiller.

The project will also monitor the tri-generation system for fuel consumption, cost comparison to traditional utilities, total thermal energy provided by the reclaimed waste heat, and environmental benefits. The system also eliminates the risk of a chemical refrigerant leak. Non-toxic propane will not contaminate the soil or ground water in the event of a spill.

“PERC is excited about propane's role in the use of micro-trigeneration to provide efficient energy for dairy farms,” said PERC Director of Agriculture Programs Mark Leitman. “We see cogeneration as one more way that propane can help U.S. farmers and producers to improve agricultural practices and increase the use of environmentally friendly propane.”

PERC's vision in agriculture is that, by 2010, the agricultural industry will recognize propane as a preferred energy source offering exceptional value. This value is achieved through a unique combination of product benefits, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, reliability, portability, and environmental friendliness.

For more information on PERC and its programs to promote the safe and efficient use of propane in agriculture, call 202-452-8975 or visit www.agpropane.com.