Today’s farmers are increasingly using the sun’s energy to grow more than just fruits and vegetables. Solar power systems have become a new solution for reducing the energy costs of water pumps, refrigeration, vineyard wine processing, and many other energy-intensive agriculture applications.
According to a 2009 USDA survey, nearly 8,000 farms had installed solar electric systems for various agricultural uses, and that number has no doubt increased significantly over the last several years, since solar installation prices have fallen by 60%.
REC Solar alone has installed solar systems for more than two-dozen large and small growers, vineyards, and agricultural facilities, offsetting the growing electricity requirements for 21st century farming.
How Modern Agriculture Uses Electricity
Modern farms rely on electric power for many day-to-day energy intensive agricultural tasks, including:
- Agriculture irrigation
- Milking and dairy production
- Vineyard restaurant and hospitality operations
- Vineyard and microbrewery bottle processing
- Running fans to heat and cool barns for dairy cows
- Cold storage for milk, dairy products, grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Security and task lighting
- Electric fences, and much more.
Solar with Agriculture Case Study: Vignolo Farms, Delano, CA
One of the latest agricultural producers to go solar is Vignolo Farms, a family owned potato, pistachio, almond, and grape farmer based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where 80% of California table grapes are grown.
The Vignolo farm’s annual electric bill was hundreds of thousands of dollars due to various aspects of operations. One of the biggest energy expenses came from the farm’s state-of-the art cold storage and packing facility, an essential building, but costly in terms of energy usage.
After REC Solar completed a comprehensive evaluation of Vignolo’s utility bill, solar potential, and financial options using a proprietary financial analysis tool, REC designed, engineered, and installed a 1.07 MW ground mount solar PV system on a four acre field adjacent to the cold storage facility.
The Vignolo’s new solar array now offsets 75% of the storage facility’s electrical power usage. With local rebates, the 30% federal investment tax credit, and other tax incentives, the Vignolo family will see a payback in the 5th year. By choosing a capital purchase, the Vignolo family is expected to save millions of dollars over the solar system’s 30 year expected lifetime.
While saving on operating costs was important, the family also considers itself to be stewards of the land. They’re proud that their new solar system will substantially reduce their farm’s carbon footprint and contribute toward their goal of energy independence.
Solar Benefits for Rural Farms
Solar is also increasingly financially beneficial to rural farms that rely on expensive propane, oil, or other fossil fuel generators, or those that are considering paying for grid power lines to be extended.
With today’s new solar plus energy storage technologies, a rural California farm can now install a cost-effective off-grid solar energy solution that is quiet, sustainable, and not dependent on an expensive delivery of propane fuel that has unpredictable fluctuating prices.
If the farm would rather preserve its capitol, today’s solar PPA financing can also eliminate up front costs for both solar and storage, while giving agricultural and dairy producers a lower-cost solution for bringing more electricity—and its many applications—to their land.
Get more information about solar energy solutions for farms and dairies by contacting REC Solar for a custom evaluation of your utility costs and solar potential.