WHY FARMS ARE CHOOSING SOLAR POWER
Farmers across the country are discovering—and enjoying—the advantages of solar power. We’ve worked with farmers all over New Jersey, helping them realize the benefits and savings solar provides.
One of the simplest ways to use solar energy is to design or renovate buildings and barns to use natural daylight instead of electric lights. Dairy operations using "long day" lighting to increase production can save money with skylights and other sun-lighting options.
The sun's heat can also be used to warm homes and livestock buildings. In confinement operations, a steady supply of fresh air is critical to maintaining animal health, but this can result in substantial heating bills. "Active" solar heating systems, which use heat boxes and fans, can warm the air, saving on fuel. "Passive" solar designs, where the building is designed to take advantage of the sun automatically, are often the most cost-effective approach.
Crop and Grain Drying
Using the sun to dry crops and grain is one of the oldest applications of solar energy. Solar drying equipment can dry crops faster and more evenly than leaving them in the field after harvest, with the added advantage of avoiding damage by birds, pests, and weather.
A typical solar dryer consists of an enclosure or shed, screened drying trays or racks, and a solar collector. In a simple design, south-facing windows let sun into the shed. Other designs use a dark-colored box with a glass cover to capture the heat. Natural convection or a fan moves hot air through the crops to dry them.
If a farm has a crop dryer already in place, it may make sense to install a low-cost solar heater to supplement a propane or oil heater. The farmer would save on fuel costs while still being able to dry crops in cloudy weather.
Commercial greenhouses often rely on the sun for lighting, but on gas or oil heaters to maintain constant temperatures. A solar greenhouse uses building materials to collect and store solar energy as heat. Insulation retains the heat for use during the night and on cloudy days. To capture the most sunlight, a solar greenhouse generally faces south, while its northern side is well insulated, with few or no windows. A gas or oil heater may be used as a backup.
Remote Electricity Supply
Sunlight can also generate electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) panels are often a cheaper option than new electric lines for providing power to remote locations. And because they require no fuel and have no moving parts, they are more convenient to operate and maintain than diesel or gasoline generators. In some areas, the distance from a power source at which PV becomes more economical than new transformers and electric lines is surprisingly short—often as little as 50 feet.
PV systems are a highly reliable and low-maintenance option for electric fences, lights, and water pumps. Although current prices for solar panels make them too expensive for most crop irrigation systems, photovoltaic systems are economical for remote livestock water supply, pond aeration, and small irrigation systems. In addition, the cost of PV is projected to decline significantly over time, which will make more applications cost-effective.
Solar Incentives for Farms
Generous USDA, state/federal incentives are available right now — get them while they are here! Electric rates are only going to continue to rise, raising the value of your investment in solar power. Solar for farms is simply one of the safest places to invest because it’s low risk with a high return. Plus, our staff will complete all of the paperwork on your behalf and will ensure you maximize all possible funds available to you.
Contact us now for an evaluation!