Reducing energy use on the farm

Farms are, for the most part, pretty large energy users. Barns housing livestock, the use of sophisticated feeding or milking technology or climate control and water recycling systems in greenhouses – all require energy to keep going. So it’s no surprise, with energy costs on the rise, that many farmers are looking for ways to reduce or off-set their energy use.

Terry Reesor is one such farmer. I met him last summer when I interviewed him for an article I was writing about solar energy. Here’s his story. Solar energy is generally considered to be good for both the environment and farm businesses. Not only are solar panel installations generating clean energy, they’re also a source of additional income for farmers and businesses.

Terry Reesor of Reesor Seed and Grain near Stouffville, Ontario is certainly convinced. His two new solar panel microFIT installations came online this spring and he’s pleased with the impact the project has had¾ both on his energy consumption and on his bottom line.

“We all need to consume less energy and once we had the panel built, its presence makes you more aware of what you’re using,” he says. “And it’s a good way to generate additional revenue.”

Reesor has a roof mount unit on his grain elevator and a ground mount system installed on a hillside overlooking the company’s main building. The ground mount panel is connected into the provincial electricity grid; Reesor sells 100 per cent of his generated power to the grid at $0.80/kWh and buys back what he needs for his farm and business use at the standard consumer rate.

“For us, this panel is an investment. Although we’re producing enough power on normal days to cover our own use, we buy back from the grid,” he says.

The Ontario Power Authority, which buys the electricity, pays its solar generators quarterly and they can track their electricity production online at any time. The ground mount panel harvests the sun in two ways: when there is no sun, the panel lies flat and picks up reflection from the sun; when the sun is shining, it continually and automatically readjusts its angles to pick up the best, most direct light.

Reesor originally caught the solar bug from his cousin, who had spent time in Africa as a missionary. Their church then decided to embark on a social responsibility project to lessen their environmental footprint and installed a rooftop solar panel.

When he went to build his own installation, Reesor was able to access cost-share funding through the Greenbelt Green Energy Program for Agriculture (GGEPA) and the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP).

“The cost-share funding was helpful to us and we were really pleased to be approved for the program,” says Reesor. “It’s the kind of project that you like to see funded because there are so many benefits both for farmers and society.”

GGEPA is funded by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and administered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) to provide cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that involve energy conservation and green energy generation.

“I’m definitely a believer in solar energy and I would absolutely do this again,” he says. “In fact, I’m now a seller of solar units myself so many people were coming to see us about ours that I was doing the sales pitch all the time anyway.”

Although there are three or four other solar panels in the area, Reesor says they are currently one of  the only ones, if not the sole installation that is hooked up to the grid and working.

Reesor Seed and Grain is a family-owned business in Durham Region that specializes in custom crop protection application, seed sales and grain storage and marketing. In addition to the farm supply business, the Reesors also crop 1,300 acres of corn, beans and wheat.

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