Over the last few years, there has been a big uptake in the use of solar energy across the agricultural sector. A well-installed agricultural solar system can be used in many different ways, and hey – who doesn’t enjoy free energy! Compared to traditional power sources solar offers so much more. It is incredibly cleaner, in many cases more efficient, and requires next to no maintenance compared to equipment using fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Idaho is still considered by the USDA to be one of the largest polluting states through agricultural methods even though solar could offer a simple and clean solution.
Here are a few of the ways where the agricultural sector can benefit from the use of solar energy.
1) Greenhouse Heating
One of the most common ways that agricultural solar power is used is to heat greenhouses. Panels need not be placed directly on the roof of the actual greenhouses, but as part of a grid network utilizing unused land and/or mounted on nearby buildings. The US agricultural sector spends a huge amount of grid power just on keeping greenhouses warm throughout the year. Solar offers the perfect alternative, especially when installed with a battery unit to store up excess production.
2) Solar Irrigation
Alongside all the other benefits that solar offers, irrigation ranks as one of the very best. Ideal for use on land which is not actually connected to the national grid, and requiring very little in the way of maintenance, these will keep the water running 24/7. Another useful thing to know is that agricultural solar systems can be engineered to match the size of any farm. Smaller farms may only need a simple set-up while larger operations may wish to include a battery station as well for even greater efficiency. Panels can be fitted that actually follow the sun throughout the day, once more enhancing efficiency.
3) Livestock Fences
One of the largest energy costs that livestock producers face is keeping their electric fences running day and night. These do not require an especially high voltage meaning that even the most basic solar panel system may fit the bill. Solar panels are easy to move as and when required and simple to directly connect to enclosure fencing. Once installed correctly they will basically run on their own and need only occasional testing thanks to the reliability of a good solar power system.
4) Solar Powered Vehicles
We’re looking at the next few years with this one but solar power is improving at such an impressive rate that there are already a number of prototype agricultural vehicles being tested across the country. Cutting down fuel costs would be a huge advantage for any agricultural operation, and there are already a variety of hybrid options out there. Even just shaving off 20% from your tractor’s gasoline will make for an enormous saving.
5) Solar Sensors
Managing the growth of your crops is something which general sensor nodes perform extremely well. Monitoring growth, precipitation and a host of other factors is key to delivering exactly what is required to ensure maximum yield. The problem is that the vast majority are either grid-based or even worse require batteries than need to be frequently changed. Solar power offers the perfect solution once again, as they will operate with next to no maintenance at all. It is the perfect and most cost-effective way to keep track of your essential data.
So there we have a selection of just a few of the ways that solar power can be used for agricultural purposes. There are many more options of course with a more general application – lighting, security cameras, general energy production, etc. – and all of these can be incorporated into one grid system. Solar power has already made great strides in reducing emissions caused through agricultural operations and that is set to change even more in the future as technology continues to advance at breakneck speed.