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Solar Panels for Powering Your Farm/Ranch – Here’s What to Consider

If you’re wondering if solar power is a good option for your operation, this four-part video series from John Hay and University of Nebraska Extension is for you. Though the series bills itself as information for beginning farmers and ranchers, it’s really beneficial to anyone interested in solar power options.

I’ve included all four videos here with a brief synopsis of what they include so that you can choose which order you’d like to watch them in. (I started with 4, and then watched 3, 1 and finally 2 because that worked for me.) Each video highlights critical questions to ask yourself and your installer. They’ll give you the background you need to understand what a solar installer is offering so you can make an informed decision about whether a solar photovoltaic system is right for you.

Episode 1: Solar on a Farm – Motivations, 2:42

John shares what typically motivates us to consider solar systems to power our operations. He walks through factors to consider for each of these goals, from increasing self-sufficiency, to investment, to reducing the farm’s carbon footprint, to marketing to customers.

Episode 2: Location and Tilt, 3:14

Ground mounts and roof mounts have different requirements, benefits and drawbacks. John describes how each of these affect tilt and location and provides tips on production and cost for different options.

Episode 3: System Sizing, 3:15

Your goals and local regulations will determine the size of your installation. John gives examples of state and local regulations that may place size limitations on your installation. Since different states and regions have different regulations, you can use John’s examples as clues for who you might contact for this information. He also talks about how to consider your goals and your budget when thinking about the size of your system.

Episode 4: Economics, 6:48

This is the longest of the four videos as John takes us through the numbers step-by-step so we can see how to do an analysis of the cost of a system. Starting with the equipment and the labor to install it, John goes on to factor in tax rebates to find the cost per watt. He also has some good input on what kinds of questions to ask eager salespeople to ensure that we know what we’re paying for and that it makes financial sense for our operations.

Solar Electric Investment Analysis Publication

This publication is a companion piece to the four videos. It provides additional information on the topics the videos cover and walks readers through the economic analysis. Download your copy here.

Thanks to Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) for funding work on this project, and to Eric Romich, Ohio State University and F. John Hay, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
 for their work.

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