How Renewables Can Help Agriculture Navigate Environmental Compliance
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- Oct 11, 2019 6:38 pm GMT
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Farms of all sizes must stay abreast of environmental compliance requirements to continue operating. Although no single solution can help them do that, renewable energy plays a key role.
Renewables Help the Agriculture Industry Prepare for State Requirements
Many places around the world are setting goals to transition to renewable energy gradually. California is one of the places with such aspirations. It seeks to solely rely on renewable energy by 2045. There, some farmers depend on solar energy to prepare for the future and comply with water restrictions.
Reduced groundwater levels in California led to a situation leaving water regulators to figure out how to deal with a problem where far more water gets pumped out of the ground than filtered back into aquifers. Getting into compliance may mean farmers have to stop watering at least half a million acres.
Some compensate by erecting solar panels to take care of some of the energy needs associated with new irrigation systems. Others decide to stop irrigating large segments of their land but compensate for the associated profit losses by installing solar panels.
Since California is not the only state moving ahead with different energy requirements for agriculture and other sectors, now is the time for all affected parties to start planning how to stay in compliance with new green energy mandates. Being proactive like that allows them to weigh the pros and cons of each possibility now, avoiding being thrown off guard by future requirements.
Renewables Can Help Farmers Achieve Sustainable Certifications
Consumers are increasingly eager to do business with sustainable brands. Sustainability encompasses many things, and certain entities within the agriculture sector may define it differently. However, standardization comes into the picture when farmers decide they want to get Sustainably Grown certifications.
Energy efficiency is a vital component of that certification. Entities must keep track of renewable versus non-renewable energy, plus minimize the net energy consumption per production unit. Depending on renewable energy can help agriculture professionals get ready for certification or ensure that they maintain the minimum standards to keep their certifications.
Renewable energy is one component of an all-encompassing plan to get certified, but it could influence more areas than some people expect. For example, a certified farm avoids wasting water and works to improve soil quality. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can give agricultural businesses the data they need to ensure they stay in compliance and remain certified.
Although most IoT devices used today require batteries, researchers have investigated other possibilities. They know batteries are not feasible for long-term use in IoT devices. A company called Tryst Energy developed a gadget that harvests solar energy to power IoT devices. The brand says its product could provide power to IoT devices for 75–100 years or more.
Visibility into a farm's operations is crucial for a sustainable enterprise, especially if the operators seek dedicated sustainability certifications. Renewable energy could give power to the devices that provide all-important business transparency.
Renewables Help Smaller Agricultural Businesses Offset the Costs of Compliance
Renewable energy may also serve as a lifeline for smaller farmers who are struggling to compete with the sector's most prominent players. When Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, addressed dairy farmers at the recent World Dairy Expo, he talked about how small businesses get overshadowed by the bigger ones and eventually go out of business.
Perdue mentioned environmental requirements as putting a strain on smaller dairy farm operations when speaking at the event. He clarified, "It's very difficult on an economy of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows."
Some farmers discovered that devoting some of their land to solar panels or other sources of renewable energy helps them deal with increasing costs as well as disappointing growing seasons. As a start, programs across the U.S. offer incentives for parties that invest in solar or other renewable energy.
One farmer who invested in solar panels for his farm was quoted in The Wall Street Journal and said his electricity bills were $1,000 per month during harvest season — solar panels covered them for four straight months.
Compliance-related costs are not the only expenses small farmers face. If farmers act strategically about how to benefit from renewables, however, they may find themselves less financially strapped.
Renewables Are Crucial for Agriculture's Future
Farmers will likely find that they need to comply with increasingly stringent environmental requirements for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, renewable energy could help agricultural professionals rise to those challenges in economical ways.