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CASTLEFORD, Idaho (AP) — A south-central Idaho dairy farmer who put up solar panels to save on energy costs is drawing the attention of other dairy farmers in the region.

Dan De Kruyf, co-owner of Kowz R Us Dairy, said the 30 solar panels heat more than 400 gallons of 55-degree well water to 165 degrees. The water is then used to sanitize the dairy's holding tanks.

"As dairy farmers, our margins are tight," De Kruyf said. "I'm trying to be fiscally responsible and be a good steward of our resources as well."

Most of the $53,000 cost of the solar panels was paid for through grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Treasury and Idaho Power.

Carl Simpson, president of Renewable Energy NW, said the success at Kowz R Us Dairy has drawn the attention of other dairies in the region.

"They want to do it because of this success at Kowz R Us Dairy," Simpson told The Times-News ( "We have at least eight other dairies that have expressed interest in setting up a similar project."

He said many dairy owners are open to using renewable energy projects in their operations.

"The best environmentalists I've seen have been dairy and farmer men," Simpson said. "They care so much about their land and their cows. They may not be the first group that comes to the top of your head, but they truly care about taking care of their resources."

But on another front involving environmentally friendly innovations — anaerobic digesters — it's been tough going. The digesters reduce methane emissions and harness a renewable energy resource.

Bob Joblin, a partner with AgPower Group that manages and develops digesters on behalf of several Jerome dairies, said a lack of successful projects has made dairy producers slow to give them a try.

He said dairies were able to pay for installation with tax incentives and grant programs, but those incentives face cuts from Congress.

"We have to explain why the others failed," Joblin said. "We have less than 200 digesters in the U.S. and if we don't have the incentives, I don't know if that number will go up."

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