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Farm Uses Sunshine As Business Opportunity

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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WESTMINSTER, Md. (WJZ) — For most of us, energy costs show up at the pump and on BGE bills. But for farmers, power can be a big money drain.

Alex DeMetrick reports that’s making sunshine a business opportunity for some.

Sunnyside Farm in Westminster was named years before an acre’s worth of solar panels went up converting the sun’s energy into electricity.

“This system could power 20 homes for a year,” said Ken Donithan, Earth & Air Technologies.

But when your business is producing millions of eggs a year, it takes more than chicken power.

“We use a lot of electricity here, and this is going to cut electric usage by about one-third,” said Donald Lippy, farmer.

The farm’s solar panels produce 200,000 kilowatts of power annually.  That’s enough that certain times of the year, the BGE meter runs backwards with the utility buying the farm’s excess electricity.

“It’ll help in the wintertime when we don’t use as much electricity, so we’ll probably save then. But in the summer, we’ll still be writing them a check, so they won’t be too disappointed,” said Lippy.

But even in summer, solar power can help smooth spikes in energy costs, like the one going on now. 

Dairy farms to the poultry industry are using this technology, provided the farmer has the money to invest.

It could be a million dollar investment, but alternative energy grants and credits help pay that down.

“The payback could be three years, so it’s a very good incentive.  Grants are out there, and the renewable energy credits are where we really get our payback,” said Donithan.

Sunnyside Farm went solar a few months ago, so a system free and clear is a ways off.

“It’s going to be a good savings, once you get the system paid for,” said Lippy.

Maryland is considered a sweet spot for generating electricity with solar power, which is most efficient in climates that are neither too hot or too cold.

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