In 2016, the amount of solar power rose by 50% worldwide.
On a global scale, more solar power can help reduce water scarcity, mitigate climate change, improve the health of humanity, and decrease pollution. But one sector that stands to benefit from implementing solar energy, in particular, is the agricultural sector.
With financial, environmental, and operational benefits, an increasing number of farmers are employing solar power on their farms. Whether you’re looking to offset low productivity or power your operations more efficiently, solar panel farming is an option.
If you’re not sure about making the switch to solar farming, keep reading to find out how you stand to benefit in seven important ways.
1. Financial Incentives for Solar Farming
There are two main reasons the government provides financial incentives for solar panel farming:
Agriculture is an important part of the American economy. As such, the US government has a vested interest in the sustainable growth of the industry.
Solar panels reduce emissions and impact climate change. The positive impact on the environment is multiplied with more farms adopting this technology.
For these reasons, both federal and state governments offer financial incentives to build and maintain solar energy on their farms. For example, the federal government offers a federal investment tax credit (ITC). This credit helps cover the costs to install and operate your system.
That credit has a big impact on your taxes. Since 2018, what you spend on your solar energy system is fully depreciated within the first year from your taxable income. That small change is saving may farmers thousands of dollars in taxation.
Grants are another form of financial incentive for installing solar farming. In some cases, grants allow a farmer to choose a major improvement project, such as solar panels. The state then provides the funding for the installation.
If you’re unsure whether the benefits will outweigh the costs of choosing, installing, and operating a solar energy farm, keep these incentives in mind. Many retailers will also help you with financing through reliable programs.
2. Pollinator Population
Bees and other pollinators are an essential aspect of crop production, and their numbers are drastically dropping. For example, the honey bee population has declined by nearly 40% in the US.
One side benefit of installing solar panels on your farm is that you can help increase the population of pollinators. If you permit native plants to grow beneath the solar panels, they become pollinator-friendly places. Not only will this benefit your crop yield, but it will also prevent erosion and contribute to biodiversity.
3. Water Efficiency
Similarly, growing native plants on the underside of solar panels contribute to better water efficiency. Plants that thrive in the shade retain more water than crops that are always in contact with sunlight.
4. Renewable Energy for Your Operation (and Savings)
Solar panels are a renewable energy source – and renewable energy means fewer energy costs. For a farm, which uses large amounts of energy and fuel for daily operations, the potential energy costs are large.
Solar farming can produce renewable energy for:
Motors, machinery, and transportation
Energy for powering lights, vents, irrigation, and cooling systems for animal structures large and small
Electric fences that keep your livestock and cattle within the confines of your property, costing you time and money
Powering your home
In addition to the savings on energy costs, solar panels also give energy independence. Producing your own energy means that your farm and home are not subject to fluctuations in energy costs. In fact, you can benefit from them – which we’ll talk about next.
5. Net Metering Credits
The financial benefits of solar farming go beyond government grants and tax incentives. You can build net metering credits directly from the energy you’re producing, which saves you money on your energy bills. While most states don’t buy the extra energy that you produce for cash, your solar energy can be used as credits against your monthly or annual bill.
6. Drying Crops (for Better Quality)
Small-scale farms might be able to use the sun to dry their crops, but larger operations need larger options for their yields. The good news is, using sun-powered equipment has the same benefits as the real deal.
Solar-powered drying equipment dries crops faster and more evenly in comparison with crops that are left to dry in the field. In addition to speed and quality, drying equipment also protects crops from the risks of being outside. That includes pests, birds, and unpredictable weather.
In addition, grain dryers that run on electricity take huge amounts of power. By switching to solar, not only do you eliminate wattage from your bill, but you offset your consumption through annual net metering.
Make the Switch to Solar Energy Farming
Transforming your farm from one that runs on conventional energy to one that runs on solar power is a big undertaking. Luckily, there are equally as big environmental, financial, and operational benefits to making the switch to solar farming.
Solar panels in agriculture contribute to a more healthy pollinator population and reduced emissions. They come with tax credits, grants, and direct cost savings on energy. Solar-powered equipment may also benefit your crops, in terms of drying efficiency but also in terms of protecting your yield from the elements.
For more information on making the switch, contact us with your questions.