With everything going on in the world, the preservation of our natural resources is arguably one of the most critical issues we face. While no single entity has the power to put an end to the entire population’s use of fossil fuels, the U.S. administration has come up with a bold plan to help curb them. This includes new energy and agricultural policies geared toward converting the entire U.S. electric grid to clean electricity by 2035. The plan also consists of policies aimed at the agriculture sector achieving zero emissions over time.
Joe Biden is calling his $2 trillion plan — yes, $2 TRILLION — to rebuild infrastructure and reshape the U.S. economy a “once-in-a-generation investment in America.” It’s a massive undertaking, and while all of this is well-intended, it ignores the fact that a complete overhaul of the electric grid will drive electricity prices up significantly. Additionally, it means that some farmers could be forced to adopt greener farming methods requiring new equipment that’s prohibitively expensive.
But positive environmental change must not come at the price of making farmers less strong and resilient. American’s don’t want to be reliant on other countries for food and other resources produced by the ag industry.
At our company, we stress the need for energy independence. But more on that later.
The electric grid is recognized as the most important link in the country’s energy system, and implementation of clean energy mandates of this significance will be felt. Take California, for instance. The Golden State has some of the most aggressive decarbonization goals in the United States, and they’re constantly increasing energy mandates. This has already led to a dramatic increase in utility costs resulting in California’s electric prices rising five times faster than the rest of the country between 2011 and 2017.
So, what can farmers do to offset these? Solar energy is a sound option, and while the initial installation does require an investment, solar’s long-term financial and environmental benefits are unmatchable.
Here’s why a photovoltaic (PV) system is more attainable than you might think:
It’s efficient and reliable
Today, installing a renewable energy system is more affordable than ever before, and it’s a great option for people in the agriculture sector. On farms, solar power that’s harnessed is ultimately way cheaper than fossil fuels. It’s also reliable — eliminating or dramatically reducing the impacts of brownouts or power failures. Plus, since it has a set cost and fairly steady energy production, you can more easily predict expenses and cash flow.
And this is the big one — once you recover your upfront investment — your energy is FREE.
States, local municipalities, and even utility companies offer incentives for renewable energy systems in the form of tax credits, rebates, and discounts. For instance, and you install a system by December 2022, you’re eligible for a 26% available tax credit. Though this could be reduced or expire in future years, so it’s always better to start sooner than later.
Some utility companies even offer net metering which means you could receive a bill credit or an actual cash payment for excess power generation. Finally, the USDA has a program called REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) which gives grants and loan guarantees up to $500,000 to qualifying farms and rural businesses to invest in renewable energy systems.
Poultry farmer? It could Increase your grower grade score
Because it provides you with operational efficiency, harnessing solar power could give you the upper-hand needed to increase your grower grade score. How? With lower, more predictable costs, you can afford to invest in improvements like better temperature control while still increasing your margins. And we all know a better score means your future will be all the more lucrative. It’s a win-win for everyone. And it’s pretty good for this big, blue planet as well.
Payback periods as low as 3-5 years
While every situation is different, solar power systems on farms and businesses tend to have shorter payback periods than those installed on homes (though it’s still a good investment either way).
Of course, the amount of time it takes to recover the costs of your solar PV system depends on various factors, including upfront investment. Having said that larger systems will offset a greater percentage of costs and though the initial investment might be greater, the savings are too.
Maximize land without reducing crop size
Solar power provides you with the ability to grow shade-tolerant crops and to diversify your selection. For instance, one study involving four varieties of lettuce showed that solar shading produced lettuce crops that were equal to or greater in number than lettuce grown in full sun. This holds true for other crop varieties as well, particularly in those that are shade resistant. It can also extend your growing season and reduce water requirements. This gives you the opportunity to generate more income during a typical offseason while also saving on resources.
Companies like Ag Solar Solutions can work with you to customize a solar PV system that meets your farm’s precise needs, thus maximizing your payback. Having the right system allows you to save by offsetting a specific percentage that you’d typically draw from the grid, replacing it with clean (and free!) solar power. All of this can be done by evaluating your current electricity bills in order to analyze how you spend and consume.
Well worth it over the long-term
While not all farmers are on board with the new energy policies and proposals, the long-term benefits of going solar can minimize the negative impacts. And, solar’s financially (and environmentally) wise no matter what policies actually come to fruition.
Not to mention the fact that as grid electricity rates continue to rise, your savings are only going to become more significant. And costs will continue to rise.
Solar lowers farm costs
Ag Solar Solutions’ focus is to improve the agricultural industry’s bottom line, and its team of experts can research and navigate local and financial incentives so you can maximize your ROI. They’ll also help you to design a system that enables you to get the most out of your solar power. Once your payback period is up, you’ll have free energy for as long as you maintain your system, and Ag Solar provides a 25-year production warranty for complete peace of mind.
The sun is the source of one of the most abundant resources on the planet and we’ll never be in danger of running out of its rays, so why not take advantage? There’s never been a more advantageous time to become energy independent.