Solar-powered irrigation: An overlooked opportunity

Nebraska leads the nation in total irrigated acres, but trails in using solar energy to power the pumps.

“The reason Nebraska is dead last when it comes to individual farm systems is because Nebraskans are not informed properly — or not informed at all,” said Anthony Kush, owner of Renewable Solar LLC in Monroe, Neb.

Kush is frustrated, because he knows that one of the areas in agriculture that benefits the most from solar energy is irrigation. When the sun is shining, corn needs water, he said. If the pumps used for the transport of the water are equipped with solar cells, producers can get the water when they need it and save money in the process.

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New stats show solar panel use on the rise

"Some people say they want to tighten the belt and find ways to save money,” said Christensen, “and probably more of the folks I work with are saying that we want to do our little part for the next generation, we want to be part of the solution in helping do our role to drop greenhouse gases."

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Farms, Ranches Incorporate Small-Scale Solar Projects

“More and more Nebraskans are starting to understand the benefits of solar,” said Graham Christensen, president of GC ReVOLT, a Nebraska renewable energy development company.

“In rural areas, it's a small tight-knit community, so when one farmer puts this up, a lot of times they share the information with others,” Christensen said. “And you can easily see the dollars dropping off your electric bill. And the word gets around.”

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With projects popping up across Nebraska, future of solar power brightens

Graham Christensen of GC ReVOLT said he has installed five 25-kilowatt solar power systems on farms across Nebraska and is working to install three more.

Twenty-five kilowatts is about what’s needed on an average-sized farm, Christensen said, and is also the maximum size at which Nebraska utilities are required to purchase any excess power that is generated, which helps defray the cost of installing such solar systems.