Extension educator sees options for producers with clean energy

More producers across the Midwest are making the switch to clean energy, according to a University of Nebraska Extension educator.

F. John Hay tells Brownfield many farmers and ranchers want energy independence. “There’s a goal for green energy for some people. There’s always a goal for reducing energy costs, and as the price of solar has declined dramatically over the last 5-7 years, it has become more economical.”

Hay conducts workshops to educate farmers and rural communities on the process of installing clean energy technology like wind and solar.

He says the biggest challenge producers face is creating their own generation. “This doesn’t matter if this solar or even a diesel generator or a small wind or anything like that.  The fact is that you’ve got a large investment up front and that doesn’t always work with the economies of a farm, right, to be able to invest a large amount all at one time and pay try to pay for that over a long period of time.”

Hay says evaluating installation costs, energy use options and return value will help producers decide what type of clean energy might work for their operation. “Now, I don’t think the economics to the point where every single farm is ready to get into solar array or every single business, but it does work for some people depending on what their goals are.”

Hay says operations that require a large electrical load are likely paying above average electrical bills. “That’s where a solar ray put at that location can decrease our energy purchases from the grid every month and hopefully pay itself off.”

He says the cost and availability of batteries are barriers to solar power adoption. “To have an individual system, we need to have that storage to be able to kind of off set and use that more of the time and the cost of batteries right now is high enough, isn’t economical enough to adopt it at a great scale.”

Hay says funding is available for producers through the Federal Tax Credit and the USDA Rural Energy for America program.

F. John Hay:

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