Solar panels

AMES, Iowa — The costs associated with installing solar arrays have dropped over the last several years, making them much more cost effective to install on a farm or acreage.

As they become more affordable, these solar arrays are becoming a viable source of energy for farmers, especially farmers who have large barns to ventilate or fans on grain bins.

“Not many people realize this, but Iowa is in the top third of states in terms of solar potential,” Mark Hanna, agricultural engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension, said in an Extension news release.

“The cost per watt for generating electricity has been drop-ping steadily, down to about $3 per watt as opposed to $10-15 per watt several years ago. Both federal and state tax credits are also making the use of solar energy more attractive.”

The usage and installation of solar arrays, as well as economic considerations to take into account, are discussed in an Iowa State Extension publication, titled “Farm Energy: Solar photovoltaic energy for agricultural operations” (PM 2089Y) available through the Extension Store at It was written by Hanna; Jay Harmon, Extension livestock housing specialist; and Tom Miller, swine specialist.

Before farmers can decide whether to add a solar array or not, they must first understand how much energy they are using, how much energy can be produced from the system they have in mind, and if that production will ultimately provide a cost benefit. The publication provides step-by-step instructions for evaluating potential energy generation.

This will allow the reader to take the first steps in determining if solar energy may be the right decision for their operation, Hanna said.