British Columbia’s agricultural producers and food processors are well-positioned to provide resources for the generation of renewable and clean energy. Agricultural businesses own and steward large tracts of land and both agriculture and food processing generate by-products with energy production potential.
Producing clean energy or energy feedstock provides an opportunity for revenue diversification. Generating even small quantities of energy can enable farms and processing facilities to increase their energy self-sufficiency and reduce uncertainty about energy costs. Clean energy production has the potential to minimize the environmental footprint of individual businesses and to contribute toward a more sustainable and diversified energy supply in BC.
By combining compatible technologies with agricultural operations, a number of jurisdictions around the world have benefited from the natural synergies between agriculture and clean energy production. For example, in much of Europe and some parts of the US, anaerobic digesters have become relatively common. In addition to generating clean energy, anaerobic digestion can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase by-product management options for agricultural operations. Wind turbines are another technology that is easily combined with agricultural production with the potential for multiple benefits.
Renewable energy in BC
Renewable energy is produced from naturally occurring sources that are regenerative or theoretically inexhaustible (including biomass, sun and wind). Globally, investment in renewable energy is growing at an unprecedented rate. While almost 90% of British Columbia’s electricity needs are currently met through hydropower, the demand for diversified clean energy sources is growing.
The renewable energy production opportunities most relevant to BC’s agriculture sector include – bioenergy, wind, solar and geothermal systems. Each of these renewable energy options presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. However, in all cases, mounting pressures to reduce fossil fuel consumption will likely continue to improve the economics of renewable energy production.
Fore details on renewable energy production on BC farms (including emerging opportunities and incentives) please see the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative’s Fact Sheet #5: Renewable Energy Production. More information on individual energy technologies is available in the sections below.