SOLAR FOR YOUR FARM
Today the price of electricity has become one of the largest input costs farmers have. Farm operations are becoming more energy intensive and electricity has doubled in the last decade.
Solar is helping farmers significantly reduce the cost of electrical bills. Today Canada has over 200 farmers that are harvesting sunshine and reaping solar rewards. Are you ready to join them?
THE FUTURE IS SOLAR
Farmers have been experts of harnessing and using solar energy for thousands of years. Almost every form of agriculture involves the use of the sun, efficiently converting the energy to produce forms of energy we need for life.
In recent years, rising electricity costs have added to the escalating overheads affecting Canadian farmers and the profitability of their businesses. It therefore shouldn’t come as any surprise that farmers in Canada are starting to realise the potential of using unused roof space of solar panels for farm buildings or parcels of relatively unproductive land.
These can be perfect for solar PV installations to generate your own electricity, cut fuel bills and potentially have an additional income stream to support your business.
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ROOF MOUNTED SOLAR PV SYSTEMS FOR FARMS
Most farms and agricultural businesses have buildings that are suitable for roof mounted solar PV installations. Agricultural buildings typically have a have 10-15° roof pitch, which will generate substantial amounts of power even when the roof is not necessarily facing south.
Solar panels on farm building roofs do not require planning permission and, once installed, maintenance and servicing costs for PV installations are low. In addition to offering long-term protection from rising energy costs, along with cheaper electricity bills, solar energy is renewable. This means no greenhouses gases are released and no natural resources depleted.
WHATS IN IT FOR CANADIAN FARMERS?
- Control of current power costs: A solar system can produce 20 to 100% of the annual power needed to run a farm. With the incentives solar electricity is significantly lower buying power from your utility. Add future rate increase and the solar electricity gets cheaper every year.
- Lower Kilowatt Hour Costs – Typical Commercial Solar Systems will fix electricity costs at 6-9 cents per Kilowatt Hour (see the math below). That is based on the installed system costs divided by the production over the system life. Today, the business rates in Canada are have a wide range, depending on province and business size. But typically, Solar Electricity is almost half of the cost of buying power from utilities – and every rate increase makes solar an even better deal!
- Investment: A solar system typically yields 5-10% rate of return on the cash invested. Since solar systems last 30 years or more, it’s like a long term GIC. Commercial customers can take advantage of Class 43.2 Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for an even better rate return.
- Empowerment: Now you are in control of your own power. Rising costs will not affect you in the same way. Plan for lower costs when you retire, and enhance the value of your property.
- Green your business: Show your customers you want to lead by example.
With a net-metering system you can use the electricity produced from your solar system to power your farm. Any electricity you don’t use will be exported to the power grid for a credit that can be applied against your bill. Then later you can use a credit from the summer months to lower your winter bill!
Net Metering is simple. We install the solar and connect the power directly into your farm electrical grid. When the sun is shining you use the solar power first before using power from the grid. If the solar is not bright enough you will use power both from solar and the grid. When there is more solar than load on the farm you export power to the grid as a credit.
During the day you export excess power for use at night, and in the summer you export excess power for use in the winter.
In the end, you could have virtually no power bill except the usual customer charges such as load meter fee. It is great having a low power bill while having the reliability and instantaneous power capability of the grid.
Agrivoltaics: What is it and how does it work?
Agrivoltaics, agrophotovoltaics, agrisolar, or dual-use solar is the simultaneous use of areas of land for both solar photovoltaic power generation and agriculture.
The fast growing concept of Agrovoltaics, which has great potential, refers to the joint development of the same land area for solar PV and agriculture, allowing the cohabitation of two key sectors. Several types of Agrovoltaics have already been developed around the world, with a wide variety of innovative approaches emerging in recent years that will be a key part of the energy and climate transition.
- GROUND-MOUNTED PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS: The installation of ground-mounted photovoltaic panels is the most common option for large-scale projects (>5 MW).
- ELEVATED PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS: The photovoltaic panels are higher than usual by using special structures. This makes the distance to the ground to be greater depending on the objectives and needs of the project.
- SOLAR GREENHOUSES: Is one of the most widely implemented models in recent years. It consists of the integration of photovoltaic panels on the greenhouse roof.
COMPATIBILITY WITH AGRICULTURE
Agrovoltaics provides an effective, efficient and innovative solution to the competition for land use through the creation of synergies between renewable energies and agriculture, while promoting sustainable rural development and the protection of biodiversity and the ecosystem.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AGROVOLTAICS?
- PROTECTION AGAINST HIGH TEMPERATURES AND EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS: When plants reach the so-called “Light Saturation Point”, light is no longer beneficial to the crop, increasing water demand and potentially causing damage and hindering crop growth. Solar panels can be adjusted to allow the optimal amount of sunlight.
- REDUCTION OF EVAPORATION AND INCREASE OF SOIL MOISTURE: The shade provided by the solar panels leads to a reduction in water evaporation and can achieve savings of up to 29%. Consequently, it helps to increase soil moisture, maintaining an optimal water level for plants.
- IMPROVEMENT OF THE ECOSYSTEM: The integration of Agrovoltaics contributes to sustainable development and the protection and improvement of biodiversity and the ecosystem by prohibiting the use of herbicides, the use of hives and animal husbandry within the perimeter of the land and the installation of a perimeter fence with vegetation, among others.
- INCREASED ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION AND EFFICIENCY: The existence of crops under the solar panels helps to reduce the temperature of these, increasing their productivity by up to 10% (A Oregon State University Study Shows)