Solar Agriculture FAQs & Answers For Farms & Agribusinesses
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. See how solar panels produce electricity for homes, businesses, and farms.
Home and business owners may realize a 10% ROI or better. Given their longevity, the systems may pay for themselves well within their lifetime. As energy prices continue to rise, the return on investment should also improve.
Solar is one way to reduce carbon dioxide production by offsetting coal burning for power production. The Midwest is powered largely with coal, so each kWh produced from a solar system may save 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!
Your best starting point is to determine how many kilowatts of power you need is to look at how many kWhs (kilowatt hours) home, business, or organization 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information go to the Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants website.
Many agricultural operations will have their entire investment paid back within 5 years.