Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How Farms and Agribusiness Are Using Solar

Guest Post by 

Farms and other agriculturally-reliant businesses are ideal candidates for solar. They are often located in remote areas where on-grid energy isn’t as accessible as in a neighborhood or city, and their energy needs are often vast. The number of grid-tied solar energy systems on farms and ranches has shot up over the last decade—not only because it is convenient and sustainable, as explained by Modernize, but also because incentives and tax breaks have made the choice an easy one for many people in the agricultural industry. 

Farmers and Sustainable Energy 

Farmers make their living off of the land; cultivating it and caring for it is their duty. The use of solar energy in the agriculture industry positively impacts the latter’s longevity by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and stabilizing energy and fuel costs. In fact, solar makes so much sense in an agribusiness setting that farms and similar businesses were some of the first to host photovoltaic solar energy systems. 

Farmers can use both photovoltaic (PV) systems and passive solar systems to meet their energy needs. The choice between on-grid and off-grid depends on the inter-connection and metering available in the area. Farms use solar energy to cancel out the need for kerosene, diesel, and propane, which are not only harmful to the environment but expensive as well. A few of the processes for which farmers can replace gas usage with solar energy usage include heating water, heating air for crop drying, controlling greenhouse temperature, and powering generators. 

Financial Incentives and Tax Relief 

The large upfront investment of implementing solar on a farm is recuperated through monthly energy savings. However, due to the vast energy needs of farms, solar can be an intimidating investment. Thankfully, there are several policy-driven local, state, and federal tax credits incentives to encourage more farmers to go solar, including the across-the-board 30 percent federal tax credit for both residential and corporate solar users. There are also many financing options that farmers can take advantage of. While the perks differ based on location, there are incentives available to all farmers and ranchers in the US. 

According to USDA’s Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture report, the average financial support received for solar PV on farms was 44 percent of the entire project cost. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) both provide grants and loans to farms, ranches, and rural businesses for the purpose of implementing renewable energy systems. 

With the many options for financing and assistance, as well as the freedom from expensive and  environmentally harmful fuels, implementing solar on farms is well worth the investment. 

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