Farmers often rely on unsustained fossil fuels as a source of energy for farm machinery, synthetic fertilizers, and other modern technology used in the field. Aside from lowering your electricity bill, solar power has many benefits - from making your farmland more eco-friendly, to providing a realistic solution for drought problems. Whether you’re a grower, processor, vineyard owner, cold storage facility owner, packing operator, or nursery - this article could be informative for you. Let’s break it down.
Fossil Fuels vs. Solar Energy
If we’re speaking about consistency in use, fossil fuels are a verified choice - but environmentally, solar energy has the lead. But if we dig deeper, the answer lies in the cost.
While many farmers use fossil fuels because of its dependability, many are making the switch to solar energy because of its long-term affordability. Because most farmers use large amounts of condensed amount of energy in the daytime to supply water, harvest, irrigate, dry crops, and the produce livestock - electric companies are charging farmers sky-high electric fees to get the job done.
When comparing solar energy and fossil fuels, first we must compare the subsidies offered: The ITC guarantees to pay 30% of the installation costs until 2021. Eliminating this factor and solely examining the solar energy prices, fossil fuel steam averages at around $0.05 cents/kWh and small scale natural gas can go as low as $0.03 cents/kWh. Now compare that to solar, $0.029 cents per kWh, and the discussion is over. One could argue that the operational costs are cheaper in using fossil fuels - but the amount of energy a farmer would save in using primarily daytime sunlight with solar energy is essentially paying itself off.
The sun is never going away, but water might. As many of us know, if you’re farming in California - you’ve experienced intense drought issues creating very limited water sources. This has been an ongoing problem for over five years - and has sent some farmers into serious financial troubles. Solar panels have acted as a relief for many in these situations, because they require less hydroelectric power and allow the growth of photovoltaic panels. Using solar panels lets water be stored instead of being used through hydroelectric power. Today, over a quarter of California farmers are generating onsite solar energy.
Whether you know it or not, being a farmer means having a direct relationship and impact on the environment and wildlife. Powering your farm with solar energy allows land to become more environmentally friendly, benefitting plants and wildlife. Animals can graze around or underneath panels without harming or being harmed. Grass and plants can grow around the system without causing any threat to the panels. Aside from this, the most obvious pro of solar panels is that it is the most direct way to reduce global warming. On the contrary, fossil fuels create greenhouse gas emissions, deplete our natural resources, and cause water pollution from drilling into the ground. Solar panels are the obvious win, in this category.
Why Aren’t More Making the Switch?
The government plays a large role in solar power in the farming industry. The US has been the top contributor of subsidizing fossil fuels at higher rates than any other. This was true under the Obama administration, and obviously still true under the Trump administration. While the G20 (Group of Twenty) promised to begin lowering fossil fuel use due to its contribution to pollution and inefficient qualities, still no major changes have not been made to directly impact the reality of the situation.
You don’t have to be farming in an extremely sunny place to go solar. Hawaii, Colorado, Texas, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana all have heavy amounts of farms using solar panels - just to name a few. Since 2010, the cost of installing solar panels has decreased by more than 50%. As the most environmentally-affected group of individuals in the US, going solar makes sense for farmers - not only for their land but also their long-term finances. Considering going solar for your farming business could be a major benefit in the environment, managing your time, and lowering your monthly costs.