Farmers are increasingly taking advantage of the space they have to generate their own electricity, a new USDA report reveals.
The survey found that 8,569 operations produce renewable energy, according to the 2009 On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey released recently. The survey was carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Conducted as a follow-on to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the 2009 On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey focused on three principal renewable energy systems: solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters.
Solar power is farmland’s top choice in renewable energy. It was found to be installed on 7,968 farming operations across the country, including photovoltaic and thermal solar panels. Wind followed with 1,420 operations across 48 states. Finally, 121 operations used methane digesters across 29 states.
In terms of regions, California topped the ranking with 1,956 operations, or nearly one quarter of the total. It was followed by Texas, Hawaii and Colorado, where farmers on at least 500 or more operations were producing their own renewable energy.
Besides the environment, farmers who produce their own electricity are also reaping the economic benefits of using their land for that purpose. In nearly every state they reported savings on their utility bills, sometimes as much as $5,000 during 2009, as was the case in New York State.
“These results indicate that farmers and ranchers are increasingly adopting renewable energy practices on their operations and reaping the important economic and environmental benefits,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Community Wind Farms
The USDA report did not take into account farms that produce renewable energy to be sold to utilities that feed the grid, but this is a growing market, one that contributes towards decentralizing energy generation.
An example of that is community wind farm. One company that is active in this sector is OwnEnergy, which teams up with landowners and local developers to get such projects off the ground. Ownership is retained in the community and profits are recycled. This leads to new jobs and development in the region.
“They have ownership share while we provide them with know-how they may not have. They may be successful entrepreneurs in their community but they may not have developed wind farms before so we help them through that process”, Mr. Crowell recently told alternative energy blog Energy Refuge.
OwnEnergy says on its website the only obstacle it faces and which prevents it from developing the kind of relationship they would like with potential electricity buyers is time.
“After signing the agreements project developments can take several years so we’re just now reaching the point where we are able to have substantive conversations with folks in the utility and buyers markets,” said company CEO Jacob Susman.
That said, he says the company is making waves in the wind energy market and attracting attention from venture capitalists while it completes its early wind projects.
It’s only in the U.S. that community wind farm is taking root, though. Over in the UK, the biggest ever wind farm development has been given the go-ahead by North Lanarkshire Council, according to a news report on Click Green. The Torrance Farm Community Wind Energy project has met the criteria outlined by North Lanarkshire Council’s requirements to be considered environmentally sustainable.
Marna McMillion, CEO of one Energy4all, one of the project’s developers, said: “Collectively, individuals and communities can make a much greater contribution to the renewable energy revolution than they can acting alone”.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, appearing courtesy Justmeans.