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What every farm manager needs to know when a solar company comes knocking

Every solar company in the US has taken notices of agriculture as an opportunity: lots of land, sunny skies (self-selecting with need to grow crops), and often high energy bills. When these solar professionals come knocking, make sure you have these pro-tips ready:

Tip #1: Operate lots of water pumps? Solar will not help you with demand charges.

Obviously we know solar generates more power during the day than at night, but many installers might think that if you run your pumps during the day, or use our net energy metering bill credits, your energy costs will be offset. NOT NECESSARILY TRUE! Solar power may generate a lot of kWh’s of energy credits for you to use whenever you would like, but the killer here is the kW draw of your pump. The utility company has lots of different ways to get their money from you, and your highest demand (in kW’s over a 15-minute period) is one tricky little charge.

Tip #2: You don’t necessarily need to give up usable land for solar

Solar Sacrifice OrchardsOften the pitch is, you need to install solar on the meter where you are using the most energy. Once upon a time that was true. Today Virtual Net Energy Metering is changing the game. Now you can install a large array on unusable land and transfer the credits to wherever you need them. Generate on one meter and use the credits on say 20 different meters including equipment sheds, processing facilities, pump houses, and more. This allows you to build one larger solar array and save on overall costs.

Tip #3: Don’t forget to ask the basics:

NABCEP Solar Installer
  1. Are you licensed, bonded, and insured as a solar installer in the state?
  2. Are you NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) PV Installer certified?
  3. Can you show me some systems that will be similar to mine that you have installed before?
  4. Do you finance solar projects, offer a solar lease, or PPA? Can you get my payments less than my current monthly electricity costs?
  5. What are my additional expenses over the life of the system? Will I need to replace the inverter(s) in 7-10 years? Do you cover that?

About the Author

Tom Millhoff
TMillhoff@HelioPower.com
760.563.5528 Tom Millhoff: Agribusiness Practice Leader Tom Millhoff works at the crossroads of Energy & Agriculture throughout California. Connect with Tom     Image & Content References:

 

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