Ellington, CT – For Connecticut’s largest dairy farm, keeping its cows happy and operational costs low are two of its main priorities. So, when Oakridge Dairy set out to build its new 350,000-square-foot barn, it teamed up with Eversource to make sure energy-saving measures were part of the new facility’s design.
The 2,900-acre farm is now saving approximately $182,000 in annual energy costs while maintaining an optimal milking climate for its 2,700 cows that produce 25,000 gallons of milk each day.
“Happy cows make lots of milk,” said Oakridge Dairy Owner and CEO Seth Bahler, a fifth-generation dairy farmer. “We designed this barn to take care of our cows and employees in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. The more energy efficient we can make the process, the more we can bring home at the end of the day in terms of milk production and cost-savings.”
Focused on long-term growth in a competitive marketplace, Oakridge Dairy set out to replace two older barns with a more modern facility. The new barn includes a rotary milking parlor that accommodates 72 cows and can milk 400 cows per hour, and a 15,000-square-foot medical wing.
Bahler reached out to Eversource a year before construction and received engineering and technical assistance on energy-efficient equipment to incorporate in the new facility’s design. Eversource also secured Energize Connecticut incentives for Oakridge Dairy to offset the upfront costs of the project.
“There are nearly 18,000 farms in the three states we serve, and dairy farms, in particular, have the highest energy use of all types of agriculture,” said Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner, who knows a few things about dairy farms, having grown up on a 600 acre dairy farm in rural North Carolina. “We regularly work with farmers across our footprint to advise and connect them to sustainable solutions for savings. Oakridge connected with us early on in the planning phase, which allowed us to better evaluate their overall goals for the new facility and utilize the latest and most energy-efficient technologies in its design.”
The energy-efficient new construction features include:
- Over 400 interior/exterior LEDs
- 205 high-efficiency barn fans
- Air compressor with variable-frequency drives (VFDs)
- Cycling refrigerated air dryer
- Plate cooler
- Milking cooling pump VFD
Oakridge Dairy is estimated to save nearly 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 555 tons of CO2 annually as a result of energy efficiency – the equivalent of powering more than 140 homes for a year and removing nearly 126 cars from the road.
Oakridge also added 752 solar panels atop an adjacent building, which generate 250 kilowatts per hour, the daytime electricity equivalent to powering nearly 40 homes.
As a result of energy efficiency and solar combined, Oakridge has cut its energy usage by 75 percent.
“This project is an excellent example of the forward-thinking approach to energy efficiency and solar-readiness we often recommend to our customers,” explained Conner. “In the industry, we sometimes call energy efficiency ‘the first fuel’ and advocate for implementing efficiency measures before, or simultaneously with renewable energy deployment. That kind of planning ensures that you’re leveraging all of the potential value.”
Founded in the late 1800s, Oakridge Dairy supplies milk exclusively to Guida’s Dairy, one of Connecticut’s best-known brands.