May 4, 2018 Solar Energy, Sustainable Farming Written by Emily Folk
Solar energy in agriculture
Using solar energy in the agricultural industry

can lead to increased productivity and profits. The agricultural industry plays an important role in our day to day lives. They supply us with the food we need to survive. However, as the population continues to grow and environmental impacts affect the planet, the sustainability and economics of the agricultural industry come into question.

It’s getting harder and harder to make a living from farming and ranching, and the increased costs of energy don’t make the job profitable. Raising food for the world is vital, but there have to be other benefits to the work. One way to reduce costs and improve sustainability is by installing solar panels on the farm. Agriculture will suffer the most from climate change, and generating more renewable energy will lead to a more secure future.
 

The benefits of solar energy for agriculture

Installing solar panels on your ranch or farm will come with an initial cost, which could be steep, but these costs will pay for themselves within a few years. Solar panels require little maintenance and can be installed in a variety of places, including on top of buildings and over cropland. Solar energy is more reliable and budget-friendly than fossils fuels, so you’ll be able to budget better throughout the year and not have to worry about rising fuel costs.

It’s also possible to store excess solar energy in battery packs or sell it back to the utility company, which nets you a nice profit in the process. If you live in an area where it is difficult to connect to the power grid or connecting would require losing productive land, solar panels might be the solution you’re looking for.
 

Places to use solar energy on the farm or ranch

As technology advances, the places and equipment that can use sustainable, reliable energy continue to increase. Using solar panels to heat animal barns, sheds or greenhouses will save money and be more reliable than fossil fuels. There are a couple of different systems to choose from, including a passive system, where the building design automatically takes advantage of the sun with well-placed windows or skylights, or an active system, which uses fans and heat boxes to warm the area. Which one you decide to use will depend on how much you want to spend.

Solar energy can also be used to dry crops and grain—a practice that has been occurring for centuries but has been recently updated to be more effective and productive. Photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate electricity and be used to electrify fences or power buildings. As the technology for this system improves, the price will decrease, and the PV system could potentially be used to power irrigation systems, remote livestock water suppliers and aerate ponds.
 

Solar panels for a bright future

The issues with less land availability for crops and grazing, increasing fuel prices and falling crop prices isn’t going to improve in the near future. As the human population increases, the demand for food will rise, but so will the need for land to develop housing and businesses. There is only a finite supply of fossil fuels in the world, and while they seem to be abundant now, that won’t be true forever.

The agricultural industry is in a good position to implement and encourage the use of sustainable practices. In many ways, they already do. To ensure that the land will continue to provide for future generations, ranchers and farmers take care of it and protect it — after all, that’s their livelihood. But more can be done. Adding solar panels to a farm or ranch comes at an initial cost, but in the long run, that cost can be offset and a profit can be made.

The agricultural industry relies on the sun to be successful and produce food for the world. Adding solar panels so that the sun does even more work for the industry, in addition to increasing profits and decreasing costs, seems like a great idea. The benefits will extend to the environment and the world.

 


This is a guest post written by Emily Folk.
 
Emily is a conservation and sustainability writer.
She is the editor of Conservation Folks, and you can see her latest updates by following her on Twitter.