From the Washington Post, “The next money crop for farmers: Solar panels”:
ORION, Ill.— Randy DeBaillie pointed to the power meter on his snow-covered farm: Even on a foggy, monochromatic day, with the sun barely piercing the clouds, the flat black panels planted nearby in two long rows were generating electricity.
“There’s enough energy produced to run the whole complex,” said DeBaillie, 50, who farms 6,500 acres with his brother and cousin. They typically grow corn and soybeans each spring, but this year they want to put more solar panels on 15 acres — and sell the energy.
The earnings, he said, would be about three times what an average harvest would yield there.
Across the flatlands of Illinois, a new crop is rising among the traditional waves of grain as farmers increasingly make the same calculation as DeBaillie. Hundreds have applied to host acres of solar panels on their property, a move encouraged by a state law requiring that renewable resources provide 25 percent of Illinois power by 2025.
The shift is controversial, and not just because of how it could alter the pastoral landscape. Taking some of the most fertile soil in the world out of production could have serious consequences for a booming population…
In the northwest corner of Illinois, where his great-grandfather emigrated from Belgium during World War I, four generations of DeBaillies have worked the land. Randy DeBaillie built the half-dozen red sheds that serve as the headquarters for the family business. On a bitterly cold winter morning, they were surrounded by deep snow drifts. A thick sheet of ice blanketed the driveway. He stepped out anyway, wearing knee-high rubber boots and worn tan coveralls, to get to his solar panels.
If too much snow piles up on the panels, they cannot function properly. So he’ll grab a squeegee and clear it off…
Darn, I knew there’d be a catch. :)
Maybe this will be the year (to take up my usual garden-chat trope) when we finally get solar panels installed on the roof of our 1200sq ft house. Massachusetts has a pretty good set of rebate / installment incentives, but that means we also have a plethora of overhopeful short-term, sometimes fly-by-night installation companies. And while the Spousal Unit has gotten as far as signing a preliminary contract with at least one of the half-dozen salesmen who’ve inspected the ‘new’ roof, the shingles remain bare. Since I know all too well that we just barely get enough sunlight to grow tomatoes in a good year, I suspect our projected production capability is sufficiently marginal that we’re not exactly a top-tier prospect.
Apart from mechanical contrivances…
What’s going on in your garden (planning) this week?