Sustainable Production and Use of On-Farm Energy


The use of solar energy on the farm can take many forms: heat collectors to dry crops, livestock buildings and greenhouses; water heaters to provide hot water for dairy operations and cleaning; or photovoltaics (panels) to power water pumps, lights and electric fences. Renovating buildings and barns to capture the sun’s energy can provide for cost savings, increased self-reliance and reduced fossil fuel emissions. Financial incentives exist to help offset initial investment.

The following resources will guide you through options for incorporating solar energy into your operation.

Cover of an article about Solar Training featuring pictures of solar panels

Solar Energy Training Program

Fact sheets/bulletins on the fundamentals of solar photovoltaic energy systems. 

Farm Energy IQ poster with cartoon of an agriculture field.

On-Farm Energy Production - Solar

This solar electricity and solar thermal module provides a basic understanding and how to calculate a simple payback term for the installation of different size systems. Learn about programs that may be available to subsidize your investment.

Farmer and Engineer Discuss system with video of people talking.

Thirsty Livestock? Use Sun or Wind to Power a Remote Watering System

Are you getting tired of hauling water to livestock in remote pastures? Jonathan Barter will show us the renewable energy powered watering system on his 210 acre livestock farm. This webinar is part of the 2014 Sustainable Farm Energy Webinar Series, partially funded by the Northeast SARE's New York Professional Development Program.

Dreaming of Local Lemons: Solar Energy Virtual Tour

Summit Naturals Organic Farm has a high tunnel and greenhouse, whose active solar heating systems allow them to grow greens throughout the winter and tropical fruits such as oranges, lemons, pineapples and figs. This webinar is part of the New Generation Energy Webinar Series, partially funded by the Northeast SARE's New York Professional Development Program.

A house with snow on the roof and ground in front.

Thermal Banking Greenhouses

Steven Schwen uses thermal banking to significantly reduce the energy costs of running a greenhouse for cold-season production.

download the farmer and rancher innovations reading in PDF format

Developing an Energy Efficient, Solar-Heated Greenhouse in Maryland

This project investigated the effectiveness of energy-efficient greenhouse design and the ability of water-heating solar panels to heat a greenhouse as a propane alternative.Download File (695.90 kB)

Additional Resources

The following resources, which were not funded or produced by SARE, contain valuable information.

ATTRA/NCAT - Renewable Energy Options: Publications and links

U.S. Department of Energy - Agricultural Applications of Solar Energy: Reference brief on applications of solar energy technologies in agriculture

e-Extension - Solar Energy: Research-based information from America's land-grant universities

e-Extension - Solar-Powered Livestock Watering Systems: Fifteen-page PDF

Ohio State University Video - Financial Considerations of On-Farm Solar Energy

Video - Solar Powered Poultry Farm