Solar Is Growing on Farms Across the Country

1988

A report on Farm Energy Success Stories highlights solar insallations at agribusinesses around the country. Farms can not only save money with solar but also help protect the environment they depend on.

Farming requires sun, is energy-intensive, and depends on good stewardship of resources for success in the long term. Let’s face it, using solar in agriculture is just something that makes good sense. Indeed, trends would indicate that use of solar on farms is on the rise, first and foremost as a means of saving on costs but also important, for the satisfaction of achieving efficient energy use and minimizing environmental impact.

A recent report on Farm Energy Success Stories authored by the Environmental Law and Policy Center highlights some very compelling examples of solar installation in agribusiness around the country. The report describes projects that have been achieved thanks to grants from the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP.

 

A few of the farm solar success stories from the report:

 

  • Frankferd Farms Foods, an organic food distributor in western Pennsylvania, used a REAP grant to install solar at their farm, farmhouse, and flour mill. Owner T. Lyle sees the potential benefits of transitioning to solar as going beyond the obvious cost savings: “It works. And if more people understood that, we could slowly but surely lessen our impact on the environment as a culture and society,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of peace of mind that comes with creating something of your own that benefits not only you, but the immediate area around you.”

  • Reid Dairy Farm in Jeddo, Michigan, a 1,100 acre farm with 205 milking cows, has cut its costs significantly. Since installing solar panels, this dairy farm’s electricity bills have decreased by about 30%. They expect a return on investment in 5 – 6 years and are excited to “show that farmers are innovative.”

  • Paul Carette of FlagShooter, LLC in Garretson, South Dakota installed solar in part to meet his clients’ demand for reducing their carbon footprint. “I’ve always thought that renewable energy was unique, but out of reach,” he said. “But with the grant money, that put [the project] in reach and was a major factor in moving forward…. It’s great to be able to see that my electric bills have gone down substantially even though my business is expanding.” He decided to install a 20 kWh hybrid wind and solar project in 2012, with the help of a $36,000 REAP grant that reduced project costs by about 22%.

  • Flathead Lake Cheese of Polson, Montana is proud of its solar installation: “In addition to saving money on energy, the solar project also helped to give us an identity…. We’ve been able to prove that even in northwest Montana, we still have enough solar energy to use this system. We find that very exciting.”

  • Haley Farms, a major producer of pecans outside of Roswell, New Mexico, faces rising utility bills because of the energy required to irrigate its land. With the help of a $292,000 REAP grant, Haley Farms was able to successfully install a large PV solar electric system on almost 3 acres of land that were unsuitable for pecan trees. The Haleys went from paying $5,000 – $6,000 per month for irrigation electricity to selling power back to the grid.

  • Spencer Pope Farms of Carthage, Mississippi was one of the first farms in that state to implement solar power. Initially somewhat skeptical, Pope is now generating 100% of his farm’s energy needs through solar. “I would encourage any farmer to look at it if they have access to the REAP grant,” Pope said. “With a 25% cost share, and with the prices coming down so much, it’s become very affordable for farms to do this. I’m very pleased.”