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Pole Barn Powers Their Farm
All the pieces fell together, and the timing was right for Michael and Eugenia Wootton to “go solar” on their Kennedyville, Md., farm. They figure the investment on the 42 solar panels installed on their new metal building will have a 5 to 7 year payback, plus it will cover most of their electricity needs for at least another 20 years after that.
  The couple had a concrete pad from grain bins that had been moved away, and they planned to build a pole barn on it. About the same time they learned of opportunities to tap into savings with solar power.
  Besides a 30 percent federal tax credit, Maryland offers residents a small tax credit. Additional income comes from Solar Renewable Energy Certificates. Each 1,000 kwh the solar panels produce earns one SREC, which can be sold to companies who must meet energy standards. At current values of $200 or more per credit in Maryland, earning credits is a big incentive.
  “It’s very maintenance-free and fun to watch the meter run backwards,” Wootton says regarding the final benefit of saving electricity costs.
  The 42 panels provide enough power for 65 percent of the electricity needs for the house, barn/shop and a hunting cabin. Some months there’s a surplus, and the electric company credits that to the Woottons’ account to be used during the peak cooling and heating months when the solar panels don’t cover all their electricity needs.
  “One of the interesting things I learned is that solar cells are less efficient when it’s over 90 degrees, because they generate their own heat,” Wootton says. In the few months he’s had the system, a day in early April generated the most power.
  The solar panels are on the southern-facing side of an off-center roof peak that provides room for plenty of solar panels. The building was built to specs to accommodate the extra weight, Wootton says, but existing buildings can be modified.
  He suggests that farmers interested in adding solar power contact the USDA about possible grants. They must also work with their electricity provider to get approval and fill out paperwork with the state. Wootton is required to read his meter once a month and report it.
  “My advice for a farmer seriously farming is to look at it as an equipment investment,” Wootton says. He compares his system’s upfront cost as similar to a deluxe pickup. The difference is that after the solar panels are paid for in 5 to 7 years they will still have value, providing most of his electricity needs. The main cost in future years could include replacing the inverter, which has an average 10-year lifespan.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mike Wootton (wootton@mcwphoto.com).

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2012 - Volume #36, Issue #4