Let the Sun Shine

by Gary Mount

As a farmer, I am especially aware that almost all that we have comes from the sun.  Our farm is a “solar farm” converting sunshine to food. Of course, it is much more than this, but just thinking about my crops each year makes me very aware.

This year we have a new reason to focus on sunshine. At the end of 2009 our solar electrical system on our new barn was completed. We had situated the barn so that one roof faced south for maximum benefit from the sun. At the beginning of the construction process, we contracted with a company to install the system, but then came the big question–how big should we make the system?

On an existing structure there can be records going back years to show electrical use. But with our new barn with refrigeration and atmosphere generating equipment, it is really a shot in the dark (no pun intended) to know how much power we will need. After a few years we will have some sort of average, but our annual use will depend so much on how many apples we store, how many peaches or pears that we pick to put in and for how long.

We did not want to build too big. The credit from the power company for generating electricity goes way down once you produce more than you use. We thought it over and decided that we would probably need all that we could get. We filled the roof with panels.

This week has been a good week. We got connected by the power company and were able to start generating electricity. A meter was installed that measures electricity in and electricity out. So the panels just sit there doing their thing. Not much goes on at night, but on a sunny day, oh boy!

We now have installed a monitoring screen in the Terhune Farmstore to show what is going on out there on top of the barn. It was installed today and on your next visit to the farm you can see the whole story–that is, as long as the sun keeps shining.