Farmers Harvesting The Power Of Solar Energy

By energyNOW! Staff, energyNOW!

The Sun is the foundation of farming, giving crops the energy they need to grow. But a program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is matching up farmers with grants and incentives to help them harvest a new crop – solar power.

Solar energy installation and production on America’s farms has increased significantly in the last decade. According to a recent USDA survey, 8,000 farms have installed a solar energy system on their property, 63 percent of all solar panels in agriculture were installed between 2005-2009, with a five-fold growth rate from 2000-2009.

image via energyNOW!

energyNOW! met Georgia pecan farmer Trey Pippin to learn how USDA’s Rural Development program matched his farm up with a local utility to build a 200-kilowatt solar array on his property.

If the trend of solar power sprouting up across the nation’s farms is emblematic of the connection between Earth and economy, Pippin is the perfect spokesperson. In 2008, he realized the 2,000-acre farm in Albany, Georgia was spending $180,000 a year in power bills. He looked for alternatives, and settled on solar power through a combination of federal and state grants and incentives.

Pippin’s solar power system went into service in April 2010, and produces 280,000 kilowatt hours a year, enough to power 40 homes. When it started running, his system nearly doubled the amount of solar power in Georgia Power’s portfolio.

Solar power is turning out to be a profitable business for the farm. On sunny days it produces up to 1,200 kilowatt hours, and earns 17 cents per kilowatt hour from his utility, totaling $60,000 worth of power they’ve sold back to the grid so far.

The utility funds this through an optional surcharge for customers who want to support renewable energy. Pippin’s solar system cost about $140,000 after tax credits and depreciation, and should be paid off within three years.

Solar’s success on his farm has made Pippin a renewable energy advocate. He recently launched a renewable properties business and has built a five-acre solar array in north Georgia that could generate 1.3 million kilowatts of energy – enough to power 140 homes for an entire year.

The full segment is available below:

Editor’s Note: This video segment comes to us courtesy of energyNOW!. Author credit for the segment goes to the energyNOW! staff.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.