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Overview: The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ACRE) program promotes the feasibility, development, and implementation of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in agriculture. Created in 2007 in the context of the New Energy Economy, the program has three purposes:

  • Reduce the costs of agricultural energy inputs for producers
    • Reduce energy consumption and switch to more affordable/stable energy sources
    • Enhance Colorado agricultural competitiveness and increase profit
  • Promote energy independence and farm production sustainability
    • Switch to energy sources that are locally produced and have an enhanced production, distribution, and disposition life cycle
  • Create agricultural energy for market (e.g., biofuels, biomass)

Broadly, these purposes can be achieved through efforts that advance the adoption of energy conservation practices and energy efficiency (EE) and the installation of renewable energy (RE) technologies. However, given the limited financial and technical resources available each year to pursue the diverse array of potential EE/RE technologies in Colorado agriculture, the Department presently focuses ACRE3; resources on just a few energy themes:

  1. Energy Efficiency – CDA is currently collaborating with the Colorado Energy Office and others to develop a deliver a 2014 pilot EE program focusing on irrigators and dairies. More information will be posted in February 2014.
  2. Small Hydro Assessment pdf file
  3. Colorado Agriculture Renewable Heating & Cooling Roadmap pdf file

While the Department remains open to investing in a broad array of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and processes, the ACRE3 program will focus on just these three promising areas for the near future. However, the Department encourages you to contribute any thoughts or suggestions you may have regarding the implementation and the future direction of the program.

Background: The Conservation Services Division and the Colorado Agricultural Value-Added Development Board administers the ACRE3 program which provides funding to promote energy-related projects beneficial to Colorado's agriculture industry. Specific authority for the ACRE3 program is outlined in Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 35-75-205(1.5) and provides for funds appropriated to the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) to be allocated to the Board "to promote agricultural energy-related projects." Such projects must, in some way, benefit Colorado's agriculture industry and may include a broad array of energy related technologies and practices. 

The Colorado Agricultural Value-Added Development Board derives its mission and authority from CRS 35-75-201 thru 35-75-205 which provide for the making of grants, loans and loan guarantees, and equity investments to eligible persons for purposes of encouraging and promoting business projects that add value to agricultural products, as well as agricultural energy-related projects. As appropriate, tax credits may also be offered by the Board for new or ongoing agricultural projects that add value to Colorado agricultural products and aid the economy of Colorado communities. 

Since its inception, ACRE3 has invested in 56 projects that have explored a diversity of agricultural energy-related themes including anaerobic digestion (5), biochar (2), biofuels (18), biomass combustion (7), energy efficiency (1), energy storage (3), greenhouse improvements (3), micro-hydro (3), solar (2), and wind (5). In 2011, the StEPP Foundation conducted an independent evaluation of the ACRE3 program.

This analysis suggested that a number of energy themes could remain productive areas for advancement. Specifically, StEPP recommended pursuing micro-hydro, farm- or community-scale wind, energy efficiency, and passive solar greenhouses as themes that show the best potential for future participation projects based on market readiness and maturity of the technologies. These agricultural energy themes were followed by SVO/biodiesel, biomass fuel pellets, gasification, anaerobic digesters, and cellulosic ethanol/butanol. However, StEPP also noted that additional funding sources may be available for wind and micro-hydro, and that fuel pellets, cellulosic fuels, biogas and SVO/biodiesel face severe economic challenges as well as several technical challenges. 

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