Solar Agriculture FAQs & Answers For Farms & Agribusinesses

How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid. See how solar panels produce electricity for homes, businesses, and farms.

What are the financial benefits of solar energy?

Home and business owners can often realize a 10% ROI or better. Given their longevity, the systems will pay for themselves well within their lifetime while producing clean energy. As energy prices continue to rise, the return on investment will also improve.

What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Solar is one of the best ways to decrease your carbon footprint. The Midwest is powered largely with coal, so each kWh produced from a solar system essentially saves one pound of coal from being burned. A solar electric system will offset the energy to produce the modules in less than 3 years – that means truly clean energy for the remaining life of the system over the next 25+ years!

How do I know what size solar electric system I need?

Your best starting point is to determine how many kilowatt hours (kWhs) your home used in each of the previous 12 months. With this, we can compare expected monthly solar energy production to your electricity usage. Annual electricity usage total is also a good start. You’ll find your monthly kWh records via paper copies of your utility bills, a phone call to your utility provider, or through your online utility account.

What is the best location for a solar array?

A south-facing area that gets sun from approximately 9 am to 3 pm is best. Solar systems also work well even when facing west or east, if that’s your best option. We can mount the systems on the majority of roof types, including a variety of materials used on pitched and flat roofs. Systems can also be ground-mounted.

How long do the systems work and how durable are they?

Solar electric systems are designed last more than 25 years.  Many solar electric systems from the 1970s and 1980s are still functioning today. Solar electric systems need very little maintenance and have a long functioning life. The solar electric panels themselves have a 25-year production warranty and will sustain 1-inch hail impact at 50 mph.

What are the mounting options for a solar PV array at our farm?

You will have several mounting options for a solar array at your farm. We install on pitched asphalt and metal roofs, flat roofs, even buildings with a curved roof such as those commonly found in agricultural settings. You may find that a ground mount is an attractive option, provided we can help you determine whether you have adequate ground space for a solar array.

How long is the installation process from concept to activation?

The typical solar project timeline from contract signature to solar energy production is generally between 2-4 months, depending on the complexity of interconnection with your local utility.

How do I protect my array from livestock?

Oftentimes we will locate your array in an area where livestock will not interact with it often, in order to reduce the risk of damage by livestock to your array.

How involved is the REAP application process?

The REAP grant application process does involve paperwork, which is easier to manage if your business’ paperwork is already in good order. However, you will need to locate and pull the required records. Allow at least one month preparation time to organize and gather your files, submit them to the grant writer, and allow time for processing.

How long should it take to see a return on investment?

Many agricultural operations will have their entire investment paid back within 5 years.

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