Powering Agricultural Operations: A road to Renewable Energy.
Technological advances have evolved hand in hand with the means to power them. Early innovations around agriculture relied mainly on human and animal traction; later improvements made way for steam and gasoline-powered equipment, replacing animals with more modern and efficient machines that allowed farmers to increase yield and productivity.
Electricity and Generators
Electricity slowly entered the market as experiments and ideas flourished in the late 19th to early 20th century. Electrical distribution was eventually established in cities and urban settings; however, rural areas were not considered during this initial expansion. Electrical Cooperatives at the time were purchasing energy in bulk and distributing it through their lines and began pushing for a complete transmission system that could reach farms, ranches, and other isolated sectors of the country. Finally, in 1936, the Rural Electrification Act was passed under President Roosevelt’s government, which granted loans to expand power lines, initially used for lighting and smaller fixtures. The Rural Electrification Administration was established to monitor these initiatives, and, by 1953, over 90% of farms in the US had electricity. Since then, electric generation remains the most significant source of energy for farmers. It powers conditioning and storage systems, machinery and equipment, refrigeration, ventilation, milking, and technological devices such as computers, sensors, automated irrigators, and electric vehicles.
Energy interruption can result in serious consequences, including loss of product and equipment malfunction. Backup generators serve as a secondary source of energy, ensuring operations can move forward even during outages, and can be powered by natural gas, diesel, or propane. Some are portable, for ease of transportation to any part of the farm where they are needed and can cover for a lack of power lines reaching the respective area. Others are standby, which are more expensive, but have greater capacity and can be turned on automatically upon an outage. Sizes and generation power vary depending on the needs of the farm, so it’s vital that a conscious and effective assessment is made before purchasing.
Despite technological advances, natural energy generation such as wind and water, has always been present in the industry, and its usage is making a return in a modern innovative setting.
The New Energy  

Biomass and Biogas

Farms are in a privileged position to incorporate energies like biogas and biomass into their operations. Biomass is produced by burning solid crops and organic waste, transforming them into a source of heat, steam, electricity, and fuels such as biofuel and biodiesel, depending on the base material. On the other hand, biogas is produced through anaerobic digestion, a process in which the same organic waste that makes up biomass can be fermented in an oxygen-free digestor to release carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are later processed to create energy, becoming a renewable alternative to natural gas and coal. The leftover solid material can be used as a soil enhancer.

There’s some debate around bioenergy being considered “green”, as the chemicals released during biomass and biogas processes are harmful. An uncontrolled or inappropriate operation can release toxic gases into the atmosphere, defeating the purpose of environmental protection. Other concerns revolve around the overproduction of waste in favor of bioenergy production. However, it remains a cost-effective and renewable way to reuse and recycle byproducts in a controlled, favorable manner, pushing rural economy, innovation, and incentives to improve and refine processes to reduce emissions.

✓ Wind Energy

The agricultural industry has been using wind as an energy source through windmills for centuries to pump water and process grain. The modern wind power energy industry continues to grow steadily, and wind turbines are an option for farmers that want to modernize their operations with a clean, sustainable alternative. Investment options are open to establish wind farms alongside regular crops, or to lease part of fields to wind developers. Even though wind energy is a great alternative, it is still capital-demanding and heavily relies on geographical location to produce the expected results. 

✓ Solar and Agrivoltaics

  Solar panels are becoming increasingly accessible, and demand is rising for its usage in domestic and industrial settings. Farms are no different, and solar installation is now finding a niche not only for powering a farmer’s land but also for investing, leasing, and establishing associations that can provide bigger revenue inflows. The co-location of solar farms in agricultural areas, known as agrivoltaics, is a way to combine space requirements from solar companies with farmers’ need of diversifying revenue streams. Although agrivoltaics is still a work in progress that has many challenges and requires further studies and adaptation, it is an open opportunity to create new jobs and innovations while providing a secondary source of income.    

Photovoltaics at smaller scale is a solution for energy availability in remote areas, allowing farmers to power their equipment and devices. It is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and provide clean and sustainable energy that is easy to install and does not depend on power lines 

Solar also has governmental support. The United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) from the Department of Energy are now focusing on providing guidance, information, and support to adopt solar photovoltaics, aiming to increase investment and projects that can account for energy demand and fossil fuel emissions. Solutions of this nature are pushed firmly to reach neutrality goals and to help farmers and rural communities improve their livelihoods, production, and market opportunities.  

Making the shift to renewable energy is not always easy, and it usually requires significant investmentHowever, the policies and innovations of today are expected to become the new normal of tomorrow. Early adoption, development, and learning will allow everyone across the value chain to grow steadily into a more sustainable energy production that benefits all sectors. VISCOSITY Oil will continue supporting these efforts and providing a service that will go hand in hand with your operations, regardless of how and when you make this transition, keeping work in fluid motion with you with the best protection always! 


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