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Renewable Energy Can Offer Multiple Benefits to Farms

By Shankar Das, P.Ag, Regional Farm Business Management Specialist, Outlook

September 2017

Renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy, could offer multiple benefits to farms.

From an economic perspective, renewable energy can reduce costs related to the operation of farms. For example, a simple 10-15 kW capacity solar photovoltaic system (consisting of solar panels, an inverter and a battery component or the grid line system) with an expected lifespan of 25 years can recoup its investment in 12-13 years and generate electricity for rest of the term almost free of cost. That means the system will allow farms to not fully rely on grid electricity, and on a long-term basis, this will help reduce farm production costs.

Renewable energy can also be an income-generating system by taking advantage of SaskPower’s Small Power Producers Program, which allows customers (suppliers, in this case) to generate up to 100 kW of electricity onsite for their own use and sell it to SaskPower. The Net Metering Program, a second program, allows residents, farms and businesses to deliver their excess electricity to the electricity grid in exchange for credit.

The adoption of renewable energy tools and technologies is a beneficial management practice on farm, which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce environmental footprint, help improve public perception and address social license issues. The Government of Saskatchewan plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing renewable energy generation capacity from 25 per cent to 50 per cent (see references below). Renewable energy also aligns with the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership. A priority area in the partnership focuses on building sector capacity to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, protect the environment and adapt to climate change by enhancing sustainable growth, while increasing production.

Producers might consider renewable energy tools and technologies as a strategic component in their farm’s business plan and secure long-term energy supply systems which will offer multiple benefits to the farm. Recently, a number of large farms in Saskatchewan have been installing larger capacity solar photovoltaic systems on their farms to harvest the solar energy into electricity.

Adoption of any new technology faces multiple challenges and renewable energy systems are no exception. Recent enthusiasm and efforts in adopting renewable energy systems in Saskatchewan is comparable to the adoption and success of 1980s’ minimum-tillage as a beneficial management practice that fundamentally changed the agriculture landscape in Saskatchewan, contributing to it becoming a key player in global food security.

References:

  1. Climate Change. Government of Saskatchewan 
  2. SaskPower to develop wind, solar and geothermal power to meet up to 50% renewable target 2015.

For more information, contact Shankar Das at 306-867-3737 or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture at 1-866-457-2377.

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