Solar Heating—Heat for your Farm from the Sun Solar heating (both air and hot water) is a practical, clean, renewable energy option available to Maine farms. As heating costs have risen, solar heating has become an increasingly attractive option to farms with greenhouses, dairy operations and maple sugar operations to name a few. Maine has enough sunshine to make solar heating viable! Are you interested in…. Significantly reducing your farm’s energy costs and increasing your bottomline? Becoming energy independent? Reducing your farm’s impact on the environment, bringing you peace of mind and showing customers your farm is committed to environmental stewardship? If one or more of these suggestions could benefit Solar air installation at Duratherm Windows, your farm, the installation of a solar heating system Vassalboro, photo by Heliotropic Technologies could not only be realistic, but a profitable opportunity. More about solar heating Solar heating technology harnesses the sun’s energy to create thermal energy for water heating and space heating. This can be beneficial if your farm uses a lot of hot water, or has high heating needs for barns or other farm buildings. Solar thermal collectors can be placed on any south facing roof on a farm building, on a south facing wall, or in a field or other open area close to where the heat is needed. For water heating, solar radiation is converted to heat that is transferred to a non-toxic antifreeze in the solar collector. The heated anti- freeze is then sent to a water tank to heat water as needed. For solar space heating, typically air is heated by the collector and then circulated throughout the building or space being heated (though water or a non-toxic liquid can be used). Wondering if solar heating is right for your farm? Dairy farms in Maine are already using solar heating to help meet their high hot water demand. Greenhouses and maple sugar houses are also good candidates for solar heating. A few questions you might want to ask when considering solar heating are…. Does your farm use a lot of hot water all year long? Do you have high heating costs for barns, greenhouses or other farm buildings? Do you have a farm structure with a large, strong roof or wall with good southern exposure? Is there a field, pasture or other open area close by to place solar thermal collectors? At Weston Acres Dairy Farm in Litchfield, they replaced their electric water heater with a propane fired tankless water heater and installed a solar heating system on their barn roof to help heat the water. In the summer they make enough hot water to stop buying propane. Overall the system has reduced their energy costs by over $700 a year. Cost and Financial Assistance Solar Thermal Collectors at Weston Acres Farm, Litchfield The upfront cost of installing a solar heating system has always been seen as a significant barrier. However, as a result of staggering increases in fossil fuel prices (100% in the last seven years) installation and payback periods are very realistic. Financial assistance is also available from the federal government and the State of Maine in the form of grants, rebates, guaranteed loans and tax incentives. In some cases, 50% of system installation can be paid for by other sources. Some great programs are: US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) gives grants which fund up to 25% of the project cost Efficiency Maine Trust’s Renewable Rebate program which pays $500 per 1000 kWh (maximum of $4,000) IRS federal tax credit of 30% of installation cost For more information on solar heating applications for farms, and to learn more about the financial and technical assistance available to Maine farmers, please contact Claudia Lowd at Maine Rural Partners at (207) 581-4523 or CleanEnergy@MaineRural.org This material has been created by Kennebec Valley Community College and Maine Rural Partners as part of a grant from USDA’s Renewable Energy Development Assistance program. Program services are limited to agricultural producers and rural small businesses.
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