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Harvesting the sun

Modern agriculture has many challenges. Coping with the effects of climate change, meeting the demand for more high-quality produce, navigating economic insecurity… Being a farmer has always been tough, but unlike their ancestors, today’s farm owners have constantly developing technologies to rely on, and can use innovations that former generations only dreamt about.

One such innovation is photovoltaics, which may not guarantee a higher crop yield, but offers many benefits that make farming more sustainable – environmentally as well as financially.

Soak up the sun

By installing solar panels on the roofs of your barns, stables and residential buildings, you can become more environmentally friendly, cut your energy costs and even make some money to supplement the income you receive from selling your farm produce. Indeed, farmers are increasingly reliant on secondary sources of income as production costs are not covered by the sale of grain, meat and other products – generating electricity on their own homestead can be such a source.

So, the importance of photovoltaics is growing on farms, and so is the self-consumption of solar power. Regardless of your farming practices – rearing of animals, crop cultivation or mixed farming – and whether you’re engaged in subsistence or commercial farming, one thing is for sure: you need a lot of electricity. Ventilation, cooling, heating, lighting, drying – the possibilities for the consumption of solar energy are varied. And, unlike many individuals and businesses that would like to rely on solar power, most farmers have sufficient roof space.

Larger roof - more efficiency

As a rule, the more modules you install, the cheaper the solar power becomes since you can receive a feed-in tariff for feeding the electricity produced by your photovoltaic system into the grid. And while that tariff is significantly lower than the tariff for a single-family house, so are the acquisition costs, largely due to the much larger roof area. The installation costs per square meter go down with the size of the photovoltaic system, and the installation itself is often easier since insulation requirements are less strict. Also, the more powerful your inverters, the less you pay for a kilowatt of electricity, and the same is true for your storage system, provided that you have one – and you should. Receiving a feed-in tariff reduces your dependence on price fluctuations, but having a power storage system also protects you from outages and enables you to keep critical infrastructure (e.g. breeding facilities) running. Another advantage is that, should you have a lower demand for electricity, you can lease out any excess amount and focus on cultivating your land and tending to your beloved livestock instead.

Solar pays for itself

The costs of generating electricity from photovoltaic systems have been decreasing in recent years: today, you can produce your own solar power for less than half the price of purchased electricity. In other words, your PV system pays for itself through the electricity cost savings alone since you’re in for the long haul: the lifespan of modern solar panels is roughly 25 years. It is also important to consider your farm’s electricity load profile, which determines if it is worth it for your farm to supply its own electricity in the first place – after all, not all farms are equally suitable for self-supply, and their main power consumption may occur in different seasons. The electricity load profile tells you how much power you need at a particular time or how much surplus electricity you’re likely to produce during a given time period. It also helps you make decisions about what system is best suited for you and the storage capacity that is required.

Intelligent energy management systems record the amount of electricity generated and, when there is a surplus, selectively control the devices that consume electricity, e.g. water pumps or milling and mixing plants. Having a photovoltaic system combined with your own electricity storage enables you to be as economically efficient and self-sufficient as possible, in addition to contributing to the effective operation of the grid and to the protection of the environment.

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