How can farmers use renewable energy?

Biomass, such as sugars and oils from plants, can be used to produce fuel for vehicles (biofuel or biodiesel) and the burning of biomass for heat or electricity is simply called bioenergy. Biofuels are a renewable energy alternative that can be produced from crops grown on the farm to fuel vehicles. Renewable energy and agriculture are a winning combination. Wind, solar and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income.

Renewable energy can be used on the farm to replace other fuels or sold as a cash crop. Solar-powered farms use this clean, renewable energy to augment or replace existing fossil fuel energy sources. Solar energy on farms can be used to heat water, buildings and barns, and to generate energy to operate equipment. What does this program do? The program provides guaranteed loans and grants to agricultural producers and small rural businesses for renewable energy systems or to make improvements in energy efficiency.

Agricultural producers can also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new loans for agricultural production and processing systems. Large wind turbines typically use less than half an acre of land, and farmers can continue to plant crops and graze livestock to the base of the turbines. This brochure outlines renewable energy options for farmers and ranchers and how they can help make renewable energy a growing source of energy and rural income in the United States. Several million dollars in federal incentives are also being offered through the 2002 Farm Bill to invest in renewable energy systems.

Each turbine uses less than half an acre, so farmers can plant crops and graze livestock directly at the base of the turbine.

New York farmer

Raymond Luhrman describes how his family operates their community-supported agricultural operation using electricity produced directly on site. Price competitiveness has been a cause for concern, but costs have fallen significantly since the initial wave of interest in renewable energy in the 1970s. As bearers of the price of their commodities, farmers generally cannot pass on increases in energy or fertilizer prices to the consumer and, therefore, receive a lower return on their products when prices rise (Costantini %26 Bracceva, 200).

An increasing number of farmers and ranchers are increasing their incomes by taking advantage of the wind that blows on their land to produce electricity. Conservative estimates by farmer Neil Butler suggested that the 100 kW wind turbine would produce more than 200,000 kWh of electricity per year. However, farmers in many more states could benefit, as some of the best wind resources are found on farmland. The use of solar or wind energy or the production of biofuels from crop raw materials and anaerobic digestion help farmers achieve energy independence, while improving profitability and reducing fossil fuel emissions.

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