Member highlight: Smiley Farms

Posted on Dec 20 2018 in Decatur County REMC

Representatives from Decatur County REMC, Hoosier Energy, and the Smiley brothers pose in front of the farm’s rebuilt feed mill system. Pictured, from left, Jeff Smiley, Tom Crowe, Brett Abplanalp, Gordon Smiley, Jason Barnhorst, Steve AmRhein, and Jim Whittman.

Since we had such a great response to our employee highlights, DCREMC decided to take its feature on the road and rotate the highlights between our members and our employees. We hope you enjoy the first member highlight. At DCREMC, we are all in this together — working together to make a great co-op!

Oct. 30, 2017, was a sad day for Smiley Farms, Inc. in Greensburg. Brothers Gordon and Jeff Smiley, who operate a grain and hog farm, experienced a devastating fire that destroyed the farm’s grain handling equipment, feed mill operation, and electrical controls.

Facing extensive damage to their operation, the Smiley brothers, whose parents started the business in 1956, determined they had only one option – “Take lemons and make lemonade,” said Gordon Smiley.

Not long after the fire, the brothers developed a plan to rebuild the feed mill operation and improve its safety, efficiency, and the operations’ power factor. The timing of the fire, fortunately, worked to the brother’s benefit. Entering winter, they had time to consider their goals and options for rebuilding.

Smiley Farms contracted with Beihle Electric and Columbus Industrial Electric to develop a control program and panel allowing for the automation of the grain and feed mill system. These changes would completely transform the operation’s safety and energy efficiency.

But the Smileys went a step further. The brothers worked diligently with Decatur County REMC as a co-op member to understand use trends and data affecting the farm’s energy bill. The relationship between member and power provider has developed into a partnership as the two entities work together to educate and learn from each other. By working closely with the Smileys to understand the farm’s needs, meter technicians at the REMC activated additional features on its existing meter, allowing for an instant power factor reading to be displayed. With this information, the Smileys and DCREMC identified the weak links within the Smiley’s energy system.

The Smileys also installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on fans and motors at the farm (for which DCREMC offers a rebate), helping curtail the low power factor the farm experienced.

“We are still using about half of our old motors that weren’t damaged in the fire,” Jeff Smiley said, “We don’t see a lot of difference in efficiency with motors, the VFDs do the work.”

The Smileys have found that the VFDs accomplish three things for their operation: 1.) They eliminate in-rush current, 2.) Greatly improved power factor, 3.) Ablity to run motors at lower amperage. The VFDs also allow the Smileys to operate grain bin fans below full RPMs when the bins are not full, another energy-savings opportunity.

As a result of the farm’s partnering with DCREMC, increased education, and technologically advanced equipment, Smiley Farms has improved the safety and efficiency of its operations. The farm has also improved its power factor from 74 to 94 percent.

As Smiley Farms continues to grow and improve its 60 plus year old operation, the Smileys are proud to be members of an electric cooperative that cares and supports member engagement, education, and opportunity.

If you’d like to learn more about efficiency, improvement, and rebate opportunities for your operation, please contact Decatur County REMC at 812-663-3391.