5 Clever ways agriculture can use solar power

The amount of energy from the sun that reaches the Earth each day is absolutely enormous. All the energy stored in the world’s reserves of oil, coal and natural gases is matched to the energy of just 20 days of sunshine. Because of this, it is easy to understand why solar energy farms are becoming more and more popular around South Africa.


Recent solar technology advances and installation price drops have seen the global use of solar energy continue to grow significantly. Agriculture solar power has boomed, with farmers investing in cost-saving and sustainable technology that is friendly to the environment.


Solar power is most commonly used to generate electricity and heat water, although if used correctly, the power from the sun can be harnessed to fulfil many useful functions throughout the farm.


1. Solar Powered Sensors


Gathering important data for more optimal growth or efficient watering is a crucial part of farming. When setting up sensors across a large area of land, it is often difficult to run a mains supply to the sensor node. Wireless sensor nodes offer a brief solution, although it is often inconvenient and time-consuming to replace the batteries regularly.


This is where solar powered sensor technology comes in, offering an easy and cost-effective way to gather data. Agricultural applications for these sensors are substantial. By determining precipitation, soil moisture and levels of sunlight, watering can easily be regulated.

Electronic tags on livestock can make it possible to track and automatically monitor and control the feeding and watering of animals.


2. Solar Fence Chargers


Farms with livestock require fencing solutions that are effective, adaptable and dependable. Electric fences powered by the sun are perfect, whether for moveable paddocks or permanent installation.


Thanks to the availability of affordable parts, solar fencing is quickly becoming a cost-effective and convenient component of farming. Installation is easy, making this a perfect DIY-styled project.


3. Solar Greenhouse Heating


In 2011 it was calculated that the agricultural sector emits about 13% of the total global greenhouse emissions. This placed farming as the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy sector. Based on this statistic, much focus has been placed on the importance of solar power within farming.

Agricultural solar energy facts show that beyond panel production, solar energy does not emit any greenhouse gases. This is the main driving force behind solar power, making it one of the most popular green energy choices.


Traditional commercial greenhouses often rely on gas or oil heaters in order to maintain constant temperatures. Solar greenhouses collect and store solar energy during sunny days, making it possibly to retain the heat for use during the night and on cloudy days.


4. Solar Irrigation


Photovoltaic (PV) water pumping systems are becoming more and more popular, especially for locations with no existing powerlines. Basic systems run pumps directly when the sun is shining, ensuring that they work hardest in the hot summer months when they are needed most.


Solar irrigation systems are very reliable and cost-effective, requiring little maintenance. They can easily be sized and installed to fit your desired need. While smaller systems generally don’t require batteries, larger pumping systems may include them, along with inverters and tracking mounts to follow the sun.


5. Solar Powered Vehicles


While solar powered vehicles are still relatively uncommon with farming, this may change significantly within the near future. Tractors are typically diesel-powered, which not only contributes to global warming and air pollution, but also soil and groundwater pollution through diesel spills.

Electric vehicles powered by renewable energy may be the solution, with research showing that agricultural electric vehicles could avert 23.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.


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