Solar Agriculture FAQs & Answers For Farms & Agribusinesses
Rooftop solar panels are installed with mounting systems either attached to the roof or ballasted with heavy blocks. Ballasted installations are used on flat roofs and require no penetration from the roof. For tilted or pitched roofs like asphalt, a small pilot hole is drilled into the truss of the roof frame. This pilot hole allows the mounting bracket to attach to the roof and the plate that holds the panel is flashed with the rest of the roof to prevent leaks. For metal roofs, clamps are used to hold the panels in place. In both cases, the panels and mounting system can withstand very high-powered wind loads and storms.
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.
Expanding solar energy in our electrical supply is vital for a transition from a fossil fuel-based grid to renewable energy. Solar panels are mainly silicon, glass and wires. It is estimated that in just two years, the renewable energy produced by your solar PV system will exceed the embedded energy used in the production of the modules. The glass, wiring, and metal used in solar panels can be recycled for raw materials for future construction projects.
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 panels can last between 30-35 years, with manufacturers’ warranties typically lasting 25 years. Each year, the panel’s efficiency degrades by a small percentage. Yet after 25 years, high-efficiency panels produce 85-92% of the energy as they did in year one.
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.
Like plants and photosynthesis, solar panels take the power of the sun and turn it into energy. Here’s how it works. The photons from the sun shine down on the panels, they excite electrons in the panel’s cells, which then move to its circuits. This direct current energy travels from the roof to an inverter which converts the direct current (DC) energy to alternative current energy (AC) for your farm’s energy use. The inverter connects to your farm’s electrical system at the panel box or at the meter. In the installations StraightUp Solar completes, your farm is always tied to the utility grid to receive power when the sun goes down. Alternatively, the energy can be stored in batteries to be withdrawn at night. Your bi-directional meter tracks the energy generated from your array that exits your farm as well as the energy your farm consumes from the grid. When the grid is down, and if you have no batteries, your inverter will not allow energy to exit your farm to protect the utility workers repairing the lines.
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.