Regardless of their size, commercial diary farms are typically high cost operations. One reason for this high and always rising cost is the energy required to house, feed, and transport cattle. As the price of fossil fuels continues to rise, diary farmers must find better solutions for providing energy. The use of solar panels on dairy farms has been growing hand in hand with growing price tags on fossil fuels. They can be used for providing both heat and electricity, and should form an integral part of any farm’s long term sustainable energy production plan.
In comparison to other forms of locally produced sustainable energy, such as biogas digesters and growing crops for biodiesel fuel, solar panels are also a cost and space sensitive solution. Creating biodiesel requires designating space for appropriate crops and purchasing or renting an oil press. Solar panels, however, can be installed without taking up too much space. Cattle and other farm animals can graze beneath them and take advantage of their shade.
The cost of solar panels is constantly falling as related technologies improve. Prices that were once prohibitively high are steadily dropping to a more reasonable rate, and government incentives exist in some places to help farmers field the cost. As a consequence they quickly pay for themselves and begin to save farmers money.
However it is when used in conjunction with these other systems, solar panels can provide the most benefit. Biogas digesters are a fantastically efficient way of harnessing energy from what would otherwise be a waste product, help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and come with the added benefit of producing manure, highly useful on a farm, as their byproduct. Solar panels can be used to supplement the energy created in a biogas digester, and
Farmers wanting to become self-sufficient in their energy consumption in order to reduce spending need to make use of all their options. If all of their electricity and heat comes solar and biogas energy, they can more easily provide fuel for vehicles growing biodiesel crops without having to sacrifice as much land. Unlike biodiesel solar panels do not require an expensive generator in order to harness their energy.