Virginia Cooperative Extension workshop shifts from down in the weeds to up in the sky
DINWIDDIE — As solar energy becomes more widespread and less expensive, farmers are tapping into the technology to not only bring energy costs down but bring energy to areas where it didn’t previously exist.
“There’s lots of ways to use it,” said Bob Whitehead, a horticulture program associate with Goochland Cooperative Extension who hopes to incorporate solar energy into a model aquaponics system that can be re-created by farmers.
The development of portable power and the provision of remote power are two of the most common goals farmers state when working with Azimuth Solar Training, said company president Jeff Gilbert — even though, he added, many still want to add panels simply to bring down their power bills.
The most recent conversation about incorporating solar energy into homes, farms and small businesses in the region occurred thanks to a two-day workshop on solar energy systems that was held in Dinwiddie July 27 and 28 and organized jointly by Virginia Cooperative Extension and Azimuth using Virginia Tobacco Commission funds. While Thursday’s session focused on solar water heaters, Friday’s took a broader look at solar photovoltaics, the technology that converts sunlight into electrical energy.
As farmers listened intently, Gilbert took them through a series of PowerPoint slides showing the different systems that could be used, ways to mount panels on buildings or on the ground, how to choose appropriate sites for their location and how to incorporate the technology with existing electrical equipment.
No matter the configuration, though, Gilbert emphasized, “The end result is you get electricity out of the system.”
On a statewide level, Virginia Farm Bureau policy, as outlined in the organization’s policy book, encourages “the continuing development of alternative, cost-effective…