Solar Energy for Farms
Raw solar energy is a key component of the photosynthetic process of growing plants, but it can also be harnessed through solar panels and converted into a valuable asset for agricultural businesses to save money, increase energy independence, and reduce pollution.
Many farmers use solar panels for farm use to power their irrigation systems. These are relatively simple to set up, and they help ensure a reliable irrigation system throughout the year that is independent of the energy grid.
Designing buildings and barns to leverage natural daylight instead of using electric lights can create significant savings for farms. It’s common throughout the dairy industry to leverage “long day” lighting with skylights and windows to increase production and save money on electricity bills.
Solar water heaters are great cost-reducers for low- to medium-temperature hot water used in pen cleaning. Dairy operations can use solar-heated water to clean equipment and for pasteurization. Compared to commercial farms with electric or propane water heaters, solar water heaters can save thousands of dollars per year.
The sun can also be used to heat homes and livestock buildings. In confined operations (such as livestock or poultry), a consistent supply of circulated fresh air is vital to maintaining animal health and product quality. However, this results in higher heating bills as the heat escapes more easily due to circulation. “Active” solar heating systems, which use heat boxes and fans, can warm the air while preventing wasted energy. “Passive” solar designs, where the building is designed to take advantage of the sun’s direction and rotation relative to your location, are also a cost-effective option for farmers planning new construction. Building design can be optimized for improving solar energy usage in agriculture.
Other common uses for solar energy in ag include solar dryers for drying crops and grain, and commercial greenhouses.
Remote Electric Supply
REC Solar helps your business generate electricity through sunlight. Photovoltaic (PV) panels have increasing become a cheaper option than installing new electric lines to provide power to remote locations. Without requiring fuel, they are more convenient and cost-effective 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.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for agriculture are highly reliable and are commonly used as low-maintenance options for standard equipment like electric fences, lights, and water pumps. Traditionally, solar power in agriculture was most economical for remote livestock water supply, pond aeration, and small irrigation systems.However, as module prices have steadily decreased over the last decade, solar panels that were too expensive for most crop irrigation systems are now affordable and accessible for all types of farming operations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Renewable Energy Incentives
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Renewable Resource Data Center