Some farmers are giving back in more ways than one with a little help from Delaware’s sun, benefiting goals set forth in Senate Bill 33 signed by Gov. John Carney on Feb. 10.
An earlier piece of legislation required 25% of Delaware’s energy use to come from renewable sources by 2025. The more recent legislation, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen and Rep. Ed Osienski, increased that amount along with the timeframe offered.
Now, 40% of the energy used in Delaware must derive from renewable sources.
“Delaware is the country’s lowest-lying state, and climate change is already having a very real impact,” Carney said. “This legislation will help accelerate Delaware’s transition to renewable sources of energy, which is good for our economy and our environment, and I’m pleased to sign it into law.”
Solar panels are just one way Delaware farmers are improving the outcome of goals such as those discussed in Senate Bill 33.
According to Katharine Parry of Hartly, Delaware, solar panels have not only enhanced her family’s poultry farming practice, but it has helped the environment and other electricity customers, as well.
“Financially wise, it certainly has saved us a lot,” she said. “And of course, we do want to be good stewards of the land. This is a great way to do that.”
Parry had a 274 kilowatt solar panel system installed in 2019 through Paradise Solar, consisting of 832 panels.
The system, albeit costly upfront, has helped pay down the balance on its own merit, she said, adding that Paradise Solar helped the farm operation find all of the financing options, including loans and grants before installation began.
The family also discussed options with the electric company.
“During the summer months, it was very easy for us to come up with a $6,000 to $7,000 electric bill,” Parry said. “Our summer months are still the highest, of course, but now our bill does not go above $600 a month. Sometimes, it’s as low as $17. On really great months, we get a check from the electricity company because we produced more electricity with the solar panels than we use on the farm.”
There’s another benefit that keeps the Parry’s on the solar panel path, too, she added.
“Environmentally, this definitely helps to offset our carbon footprint. We have organic chickens through Perdue,” Parry said. “Since we are organic, we have two audits per year, including the organic audit. The solar panels are always a big conversation piece when they come.”
Investing in Taking Care of the Electric Bill … and the Environment
Sussex County Farm Bureau Director Willis Kirk lauded solar panel use on farms as just one-way farmers help their local communities.
“A fair number of farmers have installed solar panels; many of them have broiler farms,” he said. “It does work as a means of conserving energy.”
His family has farms spread throughout the state; several have solar panel systems already installed and working to improve their operations.
“These systems even take care of the electric bill. When it comes to solar, we’re looking at it in a positive sense and seeing what’s going on,” Kirk said. “Farmers are looking out for our communities. Conservation is just one way we do that.”
Bill Rohrer of Agrolab switched to solar panels several years ago when considering how much electricity his business utilizes.
“I was very frustrated with the grid system, not only the cost but the demand of electricity from my own business,” he said. “When you’re spending $2,000-3,000 a month, you scratch your head and wonder, wow, can we do something differently?”
For Rohrer and Agrolab, solar was the change they needed.
“We paid for the system within three to five years, which shows you how much electricity we use on the Agrolab property. The conservation topic is definitely what gets people interested in solar panels. But conservation and financials are interrelated. Farmers and people in the agricultural industry want to do everything we can to improve the environment. And from the business side of it, it has to make good financial sense for the most part to jump into a project like solar panels. For many of us, it’s a great way to combine goals.”