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Farm Assessments for Solar Energy
Colorado State University’s Rural Energy Center is offering free solar energy assessments for Colorado farms. The assessments will provide irrigated farms, dairies, greenhouses, animal feeding operations, and other agricultural operations with estimated system sizes, costs, savings, and other information needed to decide whether investing in a solar array is a sound investment. Solar systems could be installed on buildings, open space, or even as shade structures. The solar arrays to be evaluated would be tied into the grid and used to offset the electricity costs of pumping water, lighting, ventilation, or other uses.
The timing of the project is driven by a few factors. Costs for solar panels have decreased by 75% in the last five years. The 30% federal tax credit for solar will be reduced after 2019. USDA, the sponsor of the project, offers 25% grants for the installation of renewable energy systems by agricultural producers. In addition, the Colorado Department of Agriculture is also offering grants worth the lesser of 25%, $25,000, or whatever is needed to provide a 5-year payback period.
Results from recent assessments show an average 7.0% return on investment and only three years of negative cashflow on a cumulative basis. CSU is accepting applications on an ongoing basis up to a limit of 30. Participants accepted into the Farm Assessments for Solar Energy (FASE) program will be contacted shortly after submitting an application.