by Ben B.Boothe, Sr. | Monday, January 16, 2017, 12:38 PM (CST)
New trends in farming. We at BootheGlobalPerspectives are seeing more and more farmers, in the USA and around the world, converting their farmlands from traditional crops to "FARMING THE SUN" with solar panels. Solar Power has expanded the money-making power and brought in new opportunities for farm, ranch and land owners.
Farmers are finding the risks of fluctuating crop prices, drought, insects, floods, and the costs of fertilizer, tractors, harvesting and shipping more expensive every year. So, many are putting their crops into solar panels and either leasing the land to large energy companies or selling the electric power produced directly to the companies. Some are converting "marginally productive" farm and ranch land into solar farming with extensive arrays of solar panels.
Last week I got a letter from India, a nation habitually short of electric energy, from farmers there who are now "growing electricity" more profitably than they formerly were growing crops. Instead of the labor-intensive issues of planting, plowing, weed control, irrigating, cultivating, insect control, harvesting, storage, transportation, packaging and processing, they are simply leasing their land out for solar panels. Some are buying solar panels instead of new tractors and gradually expanding their electrical production.
We at BootheGlobalPerspectives have noticed more farmers in the USA are converting use of their land from cotton, wheat, grains and traditional crops to harvesting sunlight into electricity. Part of the key to their success has been an over production of solar panels in China that has pushed the price of solar panels very low. Now many producers report that they can produce power for a cost of 5-6 cents per Kwh, which is very near the price that coal and natural gas can produce electricity in traditional power plants.
The difference is that millions of dollars can be saved because solar does not require the huge coal mining operations or costly shipping. The main expense for the power companies may be battery systems to temporarily store the electricity produced during "sunny seasons" to hold electricity for demand during "cloudy seasons." But those systems are now developed and effective.
Bloomberg writer Laura Lorenzetti reported that U.S. farmers have a "lucrative source to harvest -- and it doesn't need soil, water, or back-breaking planting. It's solar power."
She wrote about farmers leasing their land to solar companies who install acres of solar panels and harvest the energy. These companies have been on the hunt for large swaths of flat, treeless land, and they've found it on typical crop-growing farms. That definition could apply to millions of acres of farm and ranch lands from Texas to Montana, New Mexico to Nevada. But it also applies to some lands in the northeastern and eastern part of the USA.
Lorenzetti tells about one North Carolina farmer, Dawson Singletary, who leased his 34-acre family farm to Strata Solar, telling Bloomberg that
"There is not a single crop that we could have grown on that land that would generate the income that we get from the solar farm."
In India, farmers have rigged up solar powered water pumps that can be used in irrigation for other traditional farm crops, thus they are taking electricity from the sun and using it for other farm production.
Solar photovoltaic water pumping systems are used for irrigation and drinking water. The majority of the pumps are fitted with a 200–3,000 watt motor powered with a 1,800 WP PV array which can deliver about 140,000 liters (37,000 U.S. gal) of water per day from a total head of 10 meters (33 ft). By 30 September 2006 a total of 7,068 solar photovoltaic water pumping systems had been installed and by March 2012, 7,771 had been installed.
Solar driers are used to dry harvests before storage.
There is a new day quickly arriving in agriculture. In West Texas we have seen farmers and ranchers lease their land for Wind Turbines to great advantage, converting marginally useful land into a new cash source. In New Mexico and Arizona, both solar and wind power have contributed to the economies of land owners. The biggest hurdles have not been the economic advantages. The biggest hurdles have been regulators who have been slow to adjust to new ideas while protecting the old, traditional power companies that have built relationships in the old monopoly systems for over 90 years. It is in one way a return to the philosophical conflict between Thomas Edison and his financial backer, J.P. Morgan, who only wanted to expand power production if he could lock people into a controlled grid and pricing system. The other viewpoint was that of Nicholi Tesla, who believed there was ample power sources from nature, that there should never be a lack of energy, almost free for all. That old conflict still exists, but the use of wind, solar, hydroelectric and other renewable energy technologies is gradually expanding and padding the pocket books of individuals willing to go with energy from the sun. In India, Germany, France, Latin America and much of the USA, progressive thinking is powering the way to new, inexpensive sources of energy.
Remember, a nation's ability to produce diversified and ample sources of energy is a foundation of power and economic progress for that nation. Doing so while helping the environment is a win-win for a people, and for a nation.