Yes, our farm has been using the energy from the sun for over 39 years to grow delicious fruits and vegetables for local consumers. But as of December, 2009, with the installation of two solar arrays, we are using the sun’s energy to produce electricity for all the farm’s needs. In fact, the panels produce an excess of the farm’s needs, and that extra energy is sold back to the utility company.
So here’s how it works:
Twenty photovoltaic panels, each of 210 watts, make up the two arrays. Since Minnesota has an average of 4.6 peak sun hours per day, that translates to a yearly generation average 19.32 kWh per day.
The energy is fed to the house where an inverter converts the energy from DC, direct current, to AC, alternating current. The inverter is connected to the utility grid, so the power can flow from either our solar panels or the grid. When it is cloudy, or at night, we get electricity from the grid. When it is sunny, our panels produce the electricity to power our home and electrical needs of the farming operation. When solar production exceeds the farm’s usage, the meter actually spins backwards, banking up a credit with the electric company for use when there is no sun. This is called “net metering”. If we ultimately create more energy than we use, the utility company issues a check to us at the end of the year.
What’s in it for us?
Solar power is non-polluting and reduces the daily amount of carbon emissions that would otherwise go into the atmosphere if electricity had been generated by coal. This array was made possible with a rebate from the State of Minnesota, through the stimulus fund, and Federal tax credits. The installation was integrated by Powerfully Green,* of Champlin.
We highly recommend our solar installers. Just as it is important to eat locally grown food, such as you can find at our farm, it is also important to do business with local entrepreneurs. Powerfully Green is a small business located in Champlin, and they do residential installations in the Metro area. They relate well with their clients and they understand all the intricacies of permitting with varied municipalities.