The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has opened our eyes to understand the importance of American farms and maintaining food supply, especially during emergencies. While Covid-19 will probably not cause power outages, it is definitely making us all think about how prepared we are for future potential future disasters, like earthquakes, fires or floods.
Many modern farms would have a difficult time operating during an extended power outage but that can be fixed with a solar installation that includes energy storage. The solar equipment would save the farm money on a day to day basis during normal times and then it could charge the battery system to keep essential electrical systems running in “off-grid” mode during a power outage.
Many farms already have generators that run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane. But the fuel for it has a shelf life and no matter how much you have stored, there is always the chance that the emergency could last longer than the fuel supply.
Solar is the best way to truly be prepped for disasters because it is a never-ending supply of electricity that re-fills itself every day. Solar with batteries can run the farm for months or even years if necessary. There really isn’t a better option available.
If your farm already has solar installed to offset the costs of your electric bills, then this gets even easier because you can add batteries to your existing system. Which battery system is best for you will depend on what equipment you already have installed. Enphase IQ microinverters have been very popular over the few years and can now be retrofitted with the Enphase Encharge battery-up system. If you have a SolarEdge inverter, you can pair that with SolarEdge’s new StorEdge inverter with an LG Chem battery. Outback’s Radian system can be AC coupled with almost any existing inverter, so that is also an option. Either way you go, the retrofit is no problem and can even be a DIY project for someone who is handy.
In order to size the solar and battery system, you need to think about all the electrical equipment that you count on for day to day operations. The list will depend on what type of farm you are, but most farms list things like well pumps, irrigation systems, pumps to water livestock, electric fences, barn ventilation systems, milking machines, poultry warmers, grain elevators or grain dryers. It is also important to consider things that don’t run on electricity but rely on an electric controller or timer.
These are the loads that you will separate and put your back-up loads panel. You will also need to add up the wattage of all these loads to determine how much inverter power you need to keep them running. While you are making the list be sure to include information on how many hours per day or per week these loads need to be on because that is important when determining how much energy storage will be required.
Other things that should be considered when sizing all the equipment is what things need to be running at the same time versus what things will never run at the same time. For example, you need less inverter power if you can avoid running the welder at the same time as the milking machine during a power outage. Also, the time of day that the loads are needed makes a difference on the amount of battery storage required. Loads during the day can be powered while the solar is on don’t required as much energy storage as loads that have to run at night.