Farmers nationwide are using more renewable energy – KCRG

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COGGON, Iowa (KCRG) – For Linn County Supervisor Louis Zumbach, farming and renewable energy go hand-in-hand.

A few years ago, he installed solar panels on his farm as a way to help make ends meet.

“Our margins keep getting smaller every year, and we’re expected to produce more with less. And this is just a way of doing it.” said Zumbach.

He says before installing solar panels, his energy bill was around 40,000 dollars a year.

Now, it’s around $4,500.

But Zumbach says his favorite part is how easy the panels are to manage.

“This is pretty much hands-off once you get it up and turned on. There’s very little maintenance or anything,” said Zumbach.

And he’s not the only one.

According to the U-S-D-A 2022 Census of Agriculture Data, the number of farmers or ranchers using renewable energy nationwide increased by 15%.

That’s roughly 20,000 farms.

Professors researching renewable energy at Iowa State University say it’s easy to see why.

“You know, the fuel is free. The energy cost for the solar panels is free. There were tax credits available to farmers to put these on their barns, so it lowered their energy cost significantly.” said Anne Kimber, Iowa State’s Electric Power Research Center Director.

Solar panels have become so popular Iowa State professors have even started researching how to grow crops under them.

“Our project is looking at horticultural crops; fruits and vegetables, and then pollinator mixes that can be used to conserve pollinators. We elected to go that route as opposed to corn and soybeans in part because the scale of the farming is more in line with what our horticultural farmers would do.” said Matt O’Neal, an Iowa State Microbiology and Plant Pathology professor.

O’Neal Expects their research to take several years before they’re able to determine if crops can be grown under the panels.

But even if they can’t. Zumbach argues solar panels are a worthy investment for most farmers anyways.

“If you have your own, it actually pays for itself,” he said.

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