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and Solar Energy

Farmers have always harvested the sun through their crops, now they can harvest electricity from the sun and sell it to the Ontario power grid. The FIT and MicroFIT programs offer new revenue opportunities revenue for your farm, in a time when making ends meet for a farmer is harder than ever. The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) offers 20-year contracts at a guaranteed rate: Think of it as a crop that needs no fertilizing, weeding, irrigation, or harvesting. Once 'planted' there is no labour or fuel cost, yet this crop will make money every year, for at least 20 years.

Farmers are used to dealing with capital-cost-allowance type of equipment, and should therefore feel right at home with the tax aspects of solar PV. The cost of the equipment is fully depreciable against the revenue generated by the solar electricity. Large investments are no stranger to a farmer either, and getting financing for solar PV should not be a problem. Many banks now recognize that a FIT or MicroFIT contract is in essence a contract with the government, while energy production from solar PV is very predictable over a 20-year term.

There are two solar options suitable for the farmer:

  1. If you have large barns with a suitable roof surface it is possible to install solar PV modules on the roof. The OPA pays 71.3 cents per kWh supplied to the grid for rooftop solar systems between 10 and 250 kW. Installing solar PV on the roof has no effect on how the barn can be used, it just puts it to better use.
     
  2. Ground mounted solar PV is an option as well. The OPA pays 64.2 cents per kWh for systems up to 10 kW in size. At that rate it makes sense to install a solar tracker, which actively moves the array so it always faces towards the sun. A solar tracker can, in theory, increase energy production by up to 33% over a fixed solar array. Since farmers often have multiple fields with multiple addresses it is possible to install more than one tracker and still get the 64.2 cent rate for each. Ground mounted solar can be combined with the use of the field by cattle, a tracker has a small footprint.

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you. We know you are busy running the farm and do not have time to study every detail. We will do that for you, from start to finish. We take great pride in being there for our customers, and our installations are to the highest standards. Our estimates of energy production and revenue are always honest and conservative; our goal is for you to be a happy customer!

 

Solar Payback and Return-On-Investment for Farmers

A reasonable (and conservative) estimate for the energy production of fixed solar modules is 1,140 kW per KW of solar PV per year. With that in mind, let us take a look at a 100 kW barn roof solar PV installation, assuming a roof that is close to south-facing and with a roof pitch between 20 and 45 degrees:

Annual average Energy Production:

114,000 kWh
Annual average FIT revenue: $81,280
FIT revenue over the 20-year contract term: $1,625,000
Estimated cost of installation ($5.70/Watt): $570,000
Total estimated profit over the 20-year contract term: $1,055,000
Simple payback time: 7.0 years
Annual Return-On-Investment: 9.2%

With $925,000 in profit over the 20-year contract term this is a 'crop' that should appeal to a farmer!

For ground mounted solar PV we install Deger 9000NT trackers. These are high-quality German designed units, that are now manufactured in Ontario (to meet the MicroFIT requirement for Domestic Content). Each unit holds very close to 10 kW, in fact, with the currently available Ontario manufactured PV modules we can install 9,870 Watt on them. Here are the numbers for a Deger tracker:

Annual average Energy Production (conservatively):

14,250 kWh
Annual average FIT revenue: $9,150
FIT revenue over the 20-year contract term: $188,300
Estimated cost of installation: $82,000
Total estimated profit over the 20-year contract term: $106,300
Simple payback time: 8.7 years
Annual Return-On-Investment: 6.5%

With $106,300 in profit over the 20-year contract term this is nothing to complain about. Moreover, the OPA will award multiple MicroFIT contracts for multiple addresses, allowing for multiple fields to utilize a 10 kW solar tracker.

 

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