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Solar Use on US Farms Jumps 30% in Five Years

Photo Courtesy Raphael Cruz

(Bloomberg) —

Solar is in on the American farm, while the uptake for wind power is slowing. 

Photovoltaic installations increased 30% on farms in the latest US Census of Agriculture released Tuesday. Some 116,758 farms had solar panels in 2022, compared with 90,142 in 2017. Wind turbine installation, meanwhile, grew by only 2.7% during the same period, to 14,511 farms. 

The slight increase for wind follows a 56% jump in the previous census, which covered the five years to 2017.

Read More: How Sheep Keep Solar Farms Out of the Shade

Renewable energy helps farms become more sustainable, but it can be costly to install. Both solar and wind are getting a boost thanks to incentives from President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, and the patchy energy grids in the American heartland present ample opportunities for growth. 

Demand for renewables has also provided underlying support for farmland values, as owners seek to make money from the shift to clean energy. 

Among other data in the long-awaited census, the amount of methane digesters, which are used by dairies and other livestock operations to capture the greenhouse gas, actually decreased to 680 farms in 2022 from 686 five years earlier. 

In addition, the report shows that farmers, on average, are getting older while the size of their operations continues to increase.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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