Solar power may slash energy costs for some, but it’s surprisingly beneficial among today’s farm energy alternatives, too. It can provide the power needed to fulfill many basic farm functions, from watering crops and livestock to ventilation within the farm’s facilities. It can be a huge benefit to consumers, as well. Here are some ways farmers and consumers alike can thrive on the production and consumption of solar energy.
How Solar Benefits Farmers
Farmers have found solar energy incredibly useful for their day-to-day ops — so much so, they’ve found it’s worth installing their own solar panels for a few reasons:
One way in which solar can offer a farm energy alternatives is through a solar-powered well pump. This allows farmers to provide water to their livestock remotely by using solar panels to pump water into a storage tank only when the sun is shining. If water is needed more consistently, adding battery storage and a controller to the panel setup can allow for greater capacity and control over the water’s collection and storage. Solar can also be useful in this way by providing irrigation for crops using the sun’s energy to pump from natural bodies of water into storage tanks. This water can then be used as drip irrigation or other more complex forms, like center-pivot irrigation.
Heated water is valuable for a variety of reasons, including cleaning or washing, in radiant flooring and as thermal mass for greenhouses. Farmers can store this water in drums or tanks that absorb heat from the sun.
When it comes to livestock, electric fences are non-negotiable — and solar energy can be used to power these. Installing solar fence chargers can be a great way of harnessing the sun’s natural energy to provide the necessary voltage.
Whether it’s a greenhouse or animal living quarters, proper ventilation is key to their inhabitants’ ability to stay healthy. Exhaust fans draw heat out of the building, and solar energy can be the tool to power these fans. It can be used in a variety of ways, directly by the sun or even through a thermostat. The latter allows you to control when and how it operates.
Power to the Grid
Another avenue of farm energy alternatives that’s been pursued is the ability to harvest solar power not just for their own farm but for selling excess energy to the grid. In some cases, farmers have found trading in their corn fields in favor of rows of solar panels can actually maximize their earning potential. And for the purposes of being an energy consumer, this is clutch for getting the benefits of solar power.
For regions hit hard by drought (*cough* California *cough*) solar power is an alternative to hydroelectric. California relies heavily on this type of power, but with restrictions on water usage and shrinking bodies of it, turning to solar to provide necessary energy is a great tool.
Why should you care? While you can survive without washing your car and tolerate a brown, ugly lawn, you certainly can’t (well, shouldn’t) live without fruits and vegetables. California hosts a major share of crops like tomatoes, almonds and strawberries, and produce prices since the California drought began have only gone north, says the United States Department of Agriculture. When it comes to social responsibility, though, people no problem shelling out extra for sustainably sourced goods. According to a poll conducted by Nielsen, 55 percent of online consumers across 60 countries said they were willing to pay more for products sourced from socially and environmentally responsible companies.
Solar energy can be a useful tool for many purposes. It especially provides numerous farm energy alternatives that allow farmers to keep their crops and animals healthy. And that’s a benefit to you, your wallet, your diet and the environment.