It’s not unusual to see large wind turbines dotting the countryside these days but a lesser used energy source is on the rise. As the cost of solar panels continue to drop, more and more farmers are using solar power as an alternative way to generate energy on their farms.
The technical term for solar panel technology is “photovoltaics”, which combines the Greek word “phos” (light) with the word “volt”. Photovoltaic panels transform energy from the sun into electrical energy. Thanks to government subsidies and state incentives, the upfront costs of purchasing and installing solar panels has dropped “by more than 50% since 2009.” Farmers often see a full return on their investment after a 14 to 15 years of use and solar panels have a lifespan of 20 years or more.
More common is the practice of using panels on buildings, barns, and new construction to warm them and using solar dryers to dry crops. According to COUNTRY Financial agribusiness underwriters, John Grant, solar power is “more viable than any other source of energy that we have at this point,” since it is renewable, easy to use, and environmentally friendly.
Energy companies are also seeking out unfarmed ground that can be rented for solar panel use. This provides a way for farmers to produce income that is not subject to markets or the weather.
Three months ago, COUNTRY Financial customer, Donald Sievers started using solar energy on his farm. While he was reviewing this option, he discovered that “Illinois is trending towards promoting solar energy and with the tax credits, it seemed like the economically feasible thing to do.” He has already noticed a drop in his bills due to the switch to solar energy.
As more farms go green, government subsidies and state incentives continue, and the cost of panels continues to go down, solar energy is becoming more and more popular. According to Sievers, “clean energy is the way of the future and I want to be a part of it.” It seems the future of solar energy is as bright as the sun.
 Weiner, J. (2015, September 30). Price of Solar Energy in the United States Has Fallen to 5¢/kWh on Average. Retrieved December 6, 2016, from http://www.lbl.gov/