Opinion: Solar Power in Agriculture

There are countless political issues that we read about every day. Some we pay little attention to while others seem to ruffle our feathers at the very thought of them. And, regardless of your thoughts on climate change, it’s an increasingly discussed topic.

Climate change is billed as a general change in climate patterns around the world during a given period of time. The cause of climate change is the subject of endless debates around the globe, some attribute the cause to greenhouse gas emissions while others claim it is a natural cycle in our planet. 

Whether it’s true or false and no matter the cause, most believe in taking care of our natural resources. Renewable energy may be the “magic bullet” that both appeases those looking to fight climate change as well as those simply looking to be good stewards of resources, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve economic standing. 

If there’s one industry poised to take advantage of opportunities to take care of land and resources while maximizing their yields, it’s the agricultural industry.

Activists outside of the agriculture industry claim that there is environmental damage caused by production agriculture. They claim that in the United States, the livestock industry, through everything from raising livestock, growing feed, and processing procedures, create more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry. 

However, while it compares cars on the road to the whole livestock industry, it does not account for the manufacturing of cars, their raw materials and maintenance required. So it’s not exactly a level playing field.

Additionally, a 2018 study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, E.P.A., shows that the entire agriculture industry accounts for only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., while transportation is the cause of 28% of the total emissions

tractor working on a farm

So, why is Agriculture a common target? It’s likely because unless you’re a part of the industry or grew up in one of these hard working communities, it’s hard to really understand what goes on each day at a farm. It’s difficult to see the entire picture and understand the care undertaken by these men and women and the importance of their work. 

Conversely, farmers are too busy providing for their families and growing food for the rest of the country to take to the road and share their knowledge. Neither party is wholly responsible for the breakdown in communication, and both would benefit from working to improve this. Ag Solar Solutions hopes to help bridge the gap for the benefit of everyone involved. 

One fact that most people might not know is that production farmers are some of the most environmentally conscience people on the planet. While the debate of climate change has continued for years, farmers have been working on how they can better protect their environment while also maintaining increasing their yields. This focus has resulted in the development of sustainable agriculture – using environmentally conscience production methods to grow or raise agricultural goods.

Sustainable agriculture can be demonstrated in a variety of ways such as the use of genetically engineered plants to grow with less resources, crop rotation to replenish the soil of nutrients, or even hydroponics. 

Hydroponics is a booming industry that allows farmers to grow crops in water without the use of soil. This process can allow plants to be grown indoors, as long as they are given sunlight, usually in the form of LED lights, and allows them to grow year round. Perhaps the most environmentally positive aspect of hydroponics is that it saves 70-80% of water over the lifecycle of the plant compared to regular crops. 

Another key example of sustainable agriculture in action is the use of renewable forms of energy in production agriculture. It’s positive for the environment and contributes substantially to the financial security of farmers. Ag Solar Solutions works tirelessly to bring this to fruition throughout the United States.

Ag Solar Solutions, a branch of Coastal Solar, installs solar panel systems for farms interested in investing in solar energy. These systems can be mounted on the roofs of barns or even free standing units can be placed near the facilities. These solar systems allow the farmers to reduce their operating costs by lowering or even eliminating their electricity bills. The cost of solar systems has decreased dramatically in years past, and these systems have been shown to have a 3-5 year return on investment for the farmers. Grants are even available to operations who decide to install these solar systems, not to mention tax breaks, local and state incentives for renewable energy systems. Another great benefit of solar is that if the unit creates excess energy, that energy will go back to the power grid and, in some cases, even supply a profit for the farmer. 

Ag Solar Solutions’s team helps their customers navigate local incentives and apply for various grants. These solar systems have particularly been popular with countless poultry farmers in hotter climates like the southern United States. Poultry farmers need to run large air units to keep their broilers cool during the hot summer months. The solar units installed by Ag Solar has allowed these farmers to dramatically reduce their utility costs while also keeping their birds nice and cool. Ag Solar Solutions has created valuable service to farmers and ranchers by allowing them to tap into solar energy, the most promising renewable energy we have.

With more focus turning towards renewable energy, companies like Ag Solar Solutions will continue to create ways for American farmers to invest in these promising technologies. This will enable even more farms to reduce their impact on the environment while increasing yields. Their mission is a task we all should take up to effectively do our part. It produces a win for farmers, and a win for the earth.

About the Author: 

Trevor Williams is a former high school Agriscience teacher and academy director. He’s the founder of the “Farm Traveler” podcast and website, where he writes and interviews farmers and ranchers.