Before switching to renewable energy, compare the initial costs with the expected financial benefits.
Solar energy is a promising technology that could improve sustainability and reduce production costs, but poultry producers must first determine whether the benefits outweigh the initial investment required.
“When you put different kinds of systems in place, how long does it take for them to pay for themselves? What financing do you need to look at? What is the capital investment?” said Michael Popp, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness in the University of Arkansas’ division of agriculture.
Popp developed the Poultry Solar Assessment tool with graduate students and in consultation with experts. The online launch is scheduled for October. It offers poultry farmers a simplified way to analyze the benefits and value of solar energy for their farm based on farm-specific information.
“I wanted to provide an opportunity for independent analysis,” Popp explained.
Solar’s Poultry Potential
According to previous research by the university, a solar energy project in Cleveland County, Arkansas, poultry production resulted in a 90% reduction compared to typical annual farm electricity costs. During 2021, the poultry farmer paid only account fees – between $15 and $25 per month – for 11 out of 12 months.
To this end, solar power can reduce production costs in the long run. It can also reduce the risk of input costs by knowing what the costs are in advance, rather than living with the uncertainty of rising energy prices. Finally, solar energy does not deplete fossil energy supplies.
“I think it makes a lot of sense because poultry operations spend a significant portion of their electricity budget on ventilation, heating, cooling and water pressure,” Popp added.
Confronting the cost of solar energy
Despite the benefits, the initial costs can be expensive. It is important to note that reducing invoices requires an initial cost that needs to be financed over the 30-year life of the project.
The Poultry Solar Assessment tool uses farm-specific information such as last 12-month electricity bill information and potential financing terms to provide interested poultry farmers with an overview of when financial benefits are realized at different times during the project period.
The free tool joins a range of decision support tools for every segment of the Arkansas agriculture industry at agribusiness.uark.edu/decision-support-software.