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Ohio State University Extension


Agricultural Solar Electric Investment Analysis Webinar Series

Is solar a good deal? What is the payback on solar? Will my utility let me connect to the grid and will they pay me for the electricity? 

This webinar will help you find the answer to these questions for farmers you work with.  

For many farmers, this is a common scenario: You have just received a proposal from a solar power installer to put a 100-kilowatt system on the roof of one of your barns. The proposal suggests the electricity generated will meet nearly all the electricity demand for your farm and the estimated project payback period is 3.5 years.  How can you be sure this is a good financial investment for your farm?

If you are an Extension Educator, USDA Staff, or NRCS professional consulting and working with farmers, this six-part webinar series will prepare you to help farmers answering these questions and evaluate solar projects!   

The Agricultural Solar Electric Investment Analysis Webinar Seriesfeatures two photovoltaic (PV) solar energy experts, F. John Hay with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, and Eric Romich with The Ohio State University Extension, and is based on the Solar Electric Investment Analysis Bulletin Series. Over the six sessions, Hay and Romich will help webinar participants take a critical look at the development process and best practices for an on-farm solar electric system project design and financial evaluation.

Resources provided to participants include a bulletin series and training on how to use the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s System Advisor Model (SAM) to simulate the production and financial cash flow of a solar project.  Webinar participants are encouraged to download the SAM program onto their computers prior to the last session. Instructions are found here.

Webinar participants will gain valuable, practical knowledge they can use to educate and assist small farmers to determine if a PV solar system is a sound financial investment, or not.  


Additional Details Below


Part 1: Estimating System Production

Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

Description: Learn how site-specific factors such as shading, orientation, tilt, temperature, and panel degradation can influence the amount of electricity produced by a PV solar system.

Additional Reading: Bulletin # B-1291.1


Part 2: Assessing System Cost

Date: Thursday, May 9, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

Description: Grasp a better understanding of direct system costs, indirect capital costs, operations and maintenance, and standard assumptions that provide a more accurate financial analysis, fostering informed investment decisions.

Additional Reading:  Bulletin # B-1291.2


Part 3: Forecasting the Value of Electricity

Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

Description: Not all electrons are created equal.  To calculate energy savings for a project, one must consider important variables, including the details of the individual rate structure, net metering agreements, and the assumed energy escalation rate that influence the value of electricity a PV system produces.

Additional Reading:  Bulletin # B-1291.3


Part 4: Understanding Incentives 

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

Description: Despite declining costs for PV solar, there are various federal, state, and local incentives which greatly affect the financial viability of a PV installation.

Additional Reading:  Bulletin # B-1291.4


Part 5: Conducting a Financial Analysis 

Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

Description: Understanding the solar resource production, system cost, value of electricity, and available incentives enables a robust financial analysis. Accurately evaluating the viability of a solar project requires understanding financial concepts such as simple payback, net present value, and the levelized cost of energy.

Additional Reading:  Bulletin # B-1291.5


Part 6: Photovoltaic Solar Example

Date: Thursday, May 23, 2019 12:30 p.m. -1:30 p.m. (EST)

The importance of accurate evaluation is clear when applied to a hypothetical project.  Using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed the System Advisory Model (SAM) you will learn how to estimate the system production and financial impacts of renewable energy projects.

Additional Reading:  Bulletin # B-1291.6