Solar Flexibility – The Dawn of a New Era
Some farmers look at all the poultry houses and processing plants going solar, but think to themselves:
“That’s great, but I can’t use solar because my energy needs don’t stay in one place.”
Maybe you have linear move irrigation systems, multiple fields with central pivots, or cotton gins or cold storage facilities that don’t operate for portions of the year.
You use a lot of power in a short period of time at one location, but then you need the power somewhere nearby after that, and somewhere else after that.
Fixed solar arrays just don’t work for those sorts situations that are common to agriculture.
Another common problem is those pesky power shut-off agreements that give the utility free reign to turn your power off – without warning – if the grid gets over-extended. So right in the middle of a key watering procedure, your sprinklers go down in a brownout you can’t avoid or prevent. Not helpful at all.
There’s also the problem of triple-high peak seasonal rates.
All of these reasons led us to create something that’s never been done before. It will help farmers who have location-shifting energy needs or are looking for a way to stop unexpected brownouts and escape peak season utility rates.
It’s a mobile solar powered platform we call The Unit.
How does The Unit help farmers save energy costs?
First, it’s solar, and solar energy almost always saves money in the long run. But The Unit is particularly useful for a farm that requires energy use at multiple locations at different times of the year.
If that’s the situation on your farm and you want to cut energy costs, your options are:
- Find ways to become more efficient (possible, but not easy)
- Plant solar arrays near every location you might need them, even if it’s only a couple months out of the year (pretty costly)
- Use The Unit, and move it from location to location depending on where power needs are the greatest at that time
The Unit has all the money-saving benefits of solar, but is flexible depending on the specific geographical needs on your farm and processing plants.
For instance, if you have several fields of different crops and rotate your watering between them based on the season, then you only need to power your pivot motors for certain portions of the year at each field. The Unit can be moved to each pivot and used to power it while needed.
Or, you might want to offset the areas with the highest usage. You might have a 70 horsepower pump driving four pivots watering corn for a few months in a dry field that needs daily water. Meanwhile, you’re planting soybeans in another field with two pivots using a 30 horsepower motor.
You could use The Unit to help reduce the power drain on the four pivots, where demand is highest. Then move it to the soybeans once the corn has been harvested, and continue to save on energy.
In other words, you have solar flexibility – something no farmer has ever had in human history. Yeah, this is that big.
How Does The Unit Work?
The Unit can provide approximately 40,000 kWh per year using an 81-panel, 26 kW solar array. The panels are affixed to a platform that can be moved to different sites and fields using a tractor or heavy 350 or 3500 farm truck.
Once the platform is in place, three rows of solar panels unfold using a battery-operated cable winch. Depending on where the sun is positioned at that time, the user would orient The Unit so as to maximize the amount of generated solar power.
The Unit also ties into the grid, which means any excess power you produce can be sold back to the utility – assuming your utility allows net metering. And with The Unit’s power factor correction, the power consumption of sprinkler pivot motors, for example, will also decrease by up to 30%.
With battery storage as an optional add-on, or a generator backup, The Unit can completely liberate you from the worry of brownouts and blackouts affecting your electricity-dependent farm systems.
The Unit was designed and built by Georgia Pine Straw, Clint Williams & Jay Hutchinson.
You can see a demonstration on this video above.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Unit and mobile solar power, or other ways solar energy can save your farm thousands of dollars on energy costs, contact us using the button below.