Solar Trends: Agribusiness Getting in on Solar Savings

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As agribusinesses find they can save money with solar, more and more of them are installing PV systems. Especially in areas with abundant sun, energy-intensive farming benefits greatly from solar savings.

Years ago, I saw a TV news story about a California winery that installed solar. Their challenge was to keep wine barrels cool in the blazing summer sun. That took a lot of power. So why did they go solar? Even at the time, at least eight years ago, they did it to save money. 

And that was before the price of solar plummeted as much as it has in the last few years.

 

Similar stories continued to pop up here and there, like this one from 2006. By 2007, Napa Valley wineries were adopting solar 42 times faster than California businesses overall.

 

Although other agribusiness may not have taken to solar as quickly as wineries, that’s changing in California and other states. Now, getting power from the sun is becoming a trend for agribusiness, according to a story in the Visalia Times-Delta.

 

Marrisa Muller, Director of Marketing at SPG Solar, told the publication that agribusinesses are turning to solar for their power. She said they’ve been a major customer base for the company in the past six years.

 

Some factors that contribute to this trend:

 

  • A lot of farming is done in areas with abundant sun.

  • Farming is energy-intensive.

  • Like farming, solar may require an upfront investment in equipment and carries some risks, but pays off over time.

  • Farmers have a tradition of conservation, plus a vested interest in protecting their land and environment. Sustainability is a way of life on most farms.

 

Agriculture tends to be more of an ownership than a leasing culture, so many farmers opt to buy their system. Leases are available, too, with some businesses opting for a lease-to-own model.

The owners of Curtimade Dairy in California’s Central Valley chose to buy their system a couple years ago. Late last year, the EPA the dairy received the Environmental Champion award for their 719 kW installation. It’s among the biggest dairy solar installations in the U.S. and produces enough electricity to power 130 average American homes per year. The system saves the dairy about $18,000 per month in energy costs.

 

In the same county, Sundale Vineyards, a premium grower of a table grapes, recently announced the ground-breaking of a 1.13MW solar PV system that will supply power to their cold storage facility. Payback on the investment is expected to be quick, at about four years. Over the next 25 years, Sundale’s solar generation will save the facility an estimated $5.7 million in electricity costs.

 

More agribusinesses are following suit, as word spreads about the savings possible with solar. Energy independence is also a factor.