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How The Agriculture Industry Is Using Solar Power

The global agriculture industry’s livestock sector accounts for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, farmers are starting to reverse the trend and responsibly reduce their carbon footprints. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, at the beginning of 2010, there were more than 8,500 farms using some form of renewable energy. Solar power was the most popular form of electricity generation with 8,000 farms using this technology. Another 1,400 farms used wind turbines and 121 used methane digesters.

Not surprisingly, California led the charge toward solar energy utilization, with 2,000 farms. Other states with impressive investments in solar power systems included Colorado, Hawaii and Texas, the USDA says. Not only is this shift great for the environment, but it’s great for the average farmer’s pocketbook too. In New York State, the average savings on electricity bills was more than $5,000 per year.
So just how are American farmers using solar energy systems to save the planet and save money? Here are a few examples:

  • At Live Oak Farms in Le Grand, California, tomato and bell-pepper growers installed 272 kilowatts of solar panels. They expect to reap 84 percent of their power needs this way and recoup their costs within four years.

  • In Illinois, “hoop houses” – temporary plastic greenhouses that are warmed by the sun and sealed against the winter weather – are helping farmers grow beets, carrots, cabbage and broccoli all year round.

  • California fruit grower Limoneira uses 1 Mega-Watt of solar panel power to irrigate their 7,000 acre farm. Their system is owned and maintained by a third party company, but the farm can buy back their own power for 30 percent off the standard rate.

  • The Sonoma Wine Company is testing out a solar panel installation that would produce both electricity and heat from the same unit.

These innovations show tremendous promise. Hopefully more American farmers find it is in their best interest to adopt solar energy measures.

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