Thinking about solar panels for your farm? A solar PV system will lower your energy bills, help reduce water usage, protect your operations from power outages, create higher return-on-investment (ROI), and identify your business as a leader in sustainability.
Chances are, you probably already have buildings with roof pitch that easily support solar panels. And farming operations most likely have leveled and graded land ideal for ground-mounted solar PV systems.
With innovations for streamlined agricultural practices and expanded government grants and incentives, now is a good time to explore how solar panels can improve your operation’s bottom line.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Solar Energy for Farms?
Cut Energy Costs and Power Hard-to-Reach Areas
Extending energy to rural areas presents challenges such as the electrical source being too far away. Also, in addition to running wires being costly, they may also be unworkable.
Solar PV systems offer a cost-saving, off-grid solution suitable for lighting, heating water, and powering greenhouses and other structures.
In addition, solar panels, combined with solar batteries, will keep irrigation water pumps and other operations running smoothly in a power outage, preventing damage to crops or livestock.
Solar Panels Provide Long-Term Sustainability
Ground mount solar modules produce power for 20-25 years, creating long-term sustainability. For lasting strength and reduced ground maintenance, use solar arrays with a rock or concrete base.
Another alternative for using land beneath the solar panels: Agrivoltaics.
Agrivoltaics – Get More Use from Your Land
Agrivoltaics means setting up an area of land for both solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and agricultural use.
One approach involves growing shade-tolerant crops beneath ground-mounted solar arrays. Common shade-tolerant crops include lettuce, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, raspberries, and legumes.
Another approach allows chickens or other livestock to graze under and around the solar panels. Chickens are small enough to walk around under ground-mounted systems without modification. Solar panels also help maintain conditions for pollinator habitats by providing shade and protection from wind and rain.
Best Solar Panels for Farms - Designing Your Ideal Solar System
What will you use solar power for and where will you use it? Do you need energy for off-grid power, lighting, or operating water pumps? Perhaps you’re concerned that solar modules will impede tractor and machinery use. Your solar design and installation team will weigh all factors for planning and building a system that meets your unique needs.
Our Solar Applications Expertise in Agriculture
As an engineering, design and consulting firm the Solar Design Studio works with our solar installer clients to design and deliver solar PV systems that deliver significant savings through energy cost reduction to agricultural operations. Example applications include rice milling operations in Northern California and water pumping operations for almond growers.
Typical paybacks range from 2.5 – 3 years. In the Midwest, hog, chicken and turkey feeding operations utilize tremendous amounts of energy moving air through their barns, as well as heating during the winter months. Typical paybacks for these applications range from 3 – 5 years.
The USDA’s REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) offers both farmers and rural small businesses programs to offset the cost of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements through a grant and/or loan program. The grant program covers up to 25% (capped at $500,000) of the cost of renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act provides $2 Billion in funding for these projects through 2031. More information can be found at: https://www.rd.usda.gov/
The Solar Design Studio has provided services to enable clients to obtain the grants. A few examples include farming and food processing operations, a retail hardware store and a winery.
If you want to learn more about solar PV use cases in agriculture and the best system for your needs, the experts at Solar Design Studio will be your guides. We know that modern agricultural operations need greater energy efficiency to face increasing weather-related challenges and can help with strategic planning plus targeted solutions for renewable energy generation. Contact us to see how we help you meet your business goals and improve your ROI or call 816.607.1349.