Solar Thermal for Agricultural
From greenhouses to workshops to dairy farms and beyond, solar thermal systems reduce overall heating costs. Integrating a solar water heating system into agricultural plans can be done upfront in the beginning design phases or retrofitted into an existing farm.
Solar Thermal energy can be obtained using solar collectors. The thermal energy is commonly used for heating air and/or water. The solar thermal collectors can either be flat plate collectors, like the ones manufactured by SunEarth, evacuated tube collectors, or concentrating collectors.
SPACE AND WATER HEATING
Livestock and dairy operations often have substantial air and water heating requirements.
Modern pig and poultry farms raise animals in enclosed buildings, where it is necessary to carefully control temperature and air quality to maximize the health and growth of the animals.
These facilities need to replace the indoor air regularly to remove moisture, toxic gases odors, and dust. Heating this air, when necessary, requires a large amount of energy.
With proper planning and design solar air/space heaters can be incorporated into farm buildings to preheat incoming fresh air. These systems can also be used to supplement natural ventilation levels during the summer months depending on the region and weather.
Solar water heating can provide hot water for pen or equipment cleaning or for preheating water going into a conventional water heater (Goedseels, 1986; WFE, 2002).
Water heating can account for as much as 25 percent of a typical family’s energy costs and up to 40 percent of the energy used in a typical dairy operation. A properly sized solar water heating system could cut those costs in half (Garg, 1987; UCS, 2009)
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WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CO-LOCATING SOLAR THERMAL AND CROP PRODUCTION?
Benefits to solar developers include:
- Reduced installation costs – The use of previously tilled agricultural may prevent the need for expensive grading to flatten land to a usable level.
- Reduced upfront risk – Geotechnical risks can increase the cost of solar installation due to increased testing needs. Previously tilled agricultural land was identified as the “least risk option” during a series of surveys with solar installers.
Benefits to agricultural land managers include:
- Reduced utility costs
- Increased ability to install high-value, shade-resistant crops for new markets
- Marketing opportunity to the sustainability-mindful audience
- Ability to maintain crop production during solar generation
- Allow for nutrient and land recharge of degraded lands.
- Potential to extend growing seasons
Agricultural technology is changing rapidly. Farm machinery, farm buildings, and production facilities are constantly being improved. Cheaper and improved sources of energy are needed for efficient and smooth operations of the facilities. These sources of energy are clean, risk-free, and constitute no harm to man and the environment.
EREC (2003) Agricultural Applications of Solar Energy. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cleaning house (EREC) United State Department of Energy, Merrifield.
Garg, H. (1987) Advances in Solar Technology: volume III Heating Agricultural and Photovoltaic Applications of Solar Energy. Reidel Publishing Company, USA.
Goedseels, V. (1986). New Perspectives for Energy Savings on Agriculture: Current Progress in Solar Technologies. Reidel Publishing Company, US.A.
NYSERDA (2009). Introduction to Solar Energy Applications for Agriculture. New York State Energy Research Development Authority, New York.