Sunshine is creating an opportunity for livestock farmers in the state who are utilizing the partnership between the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and Van Wall Energy to install and maintain solar projects on their farms or at their businesses.
With the Van Wall solar benefit agreement, which rolled out earlier this year, Farm Bureau members can save up to $2,500 on the installation of Van Wall solar energy systems on their farms or businesses. Van Wall is offering the first five years of maintenance free for Iowa Farm Bureau members, a $500 annual fee for non-members.
When the sun shines, it means the farmers can turn that sunshine into power for their barns and other uses.
Rod and Missy Bice have two solar energy systems on their Boone County farm through Van Wall. The first system, a roof mount, was installed about a year ago. It helps to power their home and their cattle facilities. At the home site, they work through Alliant Energy on a net metering system. By doing this, they bank up the extra solar energy they capture in the summer to use during the fall and winter months.
At their second solar site, which was installed in February 2016, the system helps provide power to their grain dryer, shop and their three naturally-ventilated hog finishing barns. They work with Midland Power Cooperative at this site and don’t utilize net metering.
The use of a solar system made sense for the Bice family, Rod said, because of the payback, credits and incentives available for the projects.
"My main reason to go to solar was the five-to-six year turnaround," he said. "We looked at turbines, and they were too expensive. We weren’t using enough electricity to capture what it would do."
So far, Bice said the family saves more than $300 per month on their electric bill.
"I’m guessing we’re saving about $330 a month on average. We won’t know until get a full year’s worth of records, but that’s a pretty big savings for us."
Jake West, renewable energy specialist with Van Wall Energy, said farmers in the state are recognizing the benefits of the partnership with Farm Bureau and the difference a solar project can make when trimming bills on the farm.
"A lot of our projects are ag related—whether that’s working on solar systems which help power grain drying systems, a farm shop or livestock buildings," West said. "It seems like the agricultural community is jumping on board with renewable energy, especially solar, to be more competitive."
West said the company works with farmers throughout the state to help determine which systems best fit the needs of the farm.
"We’re working with farmers throughout the state and showing them how we can lower their input costs through the use of a solar array," he said.
A easy decision
The decision to install solar arrays on Dale and Tonia Larsen’s farm in Cass County was easy, Dale said.
"For me it was a no-brainer," he said. "I would rather pay off solar panels than make an energy payment every month."
The family worked with Van Wall Energy to have two separate solar arrays installed on their farm sites near Marne. The first array was installed on Dec. 28, 2015. This ground mount provides energy for their wean-to-finish hog barn and their cattle sales facility. Working with Mid-American Energy, they are able to bank some of the energy that’s produced during the sunny, summer months.
"We’ll produce 105 to 110 percent over what we’ll use, and every quarter they’ll send a check for the overage," Dale said.
The other array, which was installed in mid-January, was installed on the roof of a hog building. The array provides energy to power hog barns and the calving barns.
They work with their local rural electric cooperative, and receive a quarterly check when they produce more than what they use. When they need to use more energy than what their solar array produces, they’re billed for the month, Dale said.
Dale said he pays about $35 per month total for both sites, rather than the $700 to $800 it would cost per site before the installation.
"It’s nice to pay the minimum," he said.
West said farmers also qualify for tax credits and incentives which can be applied toward their solar projects.
Both Larsen and Bice said they’ve applied for grants, but as of press time hadn’t heard whether they had received a grant for their existing projects.
Along with the solar benefit agreement, Van Wall Energy continues to offer Farm Bureau members five years of free required service maintenance on Endurance wind turbines as well, a $12,500 value.
For more information about this Van Wall benefit, or other savings available exclusively to Farm Bureau members, please contact the IFBF at 866- 598-3693 or www.iowafarmbureau.com, or Van Wall Energy at 515-221-0765 or energy.vanwall.com.