Alava dairy farm is among the first farms in North Karelia, Finland, to generate electricity for the farm’s needs by photovoltaic solar panels.
Alava farm in the municipality of Kitee, North Karelia, Finland, is a dairy farm that was established in 1675. The farm milks around 60 cows and requires a lot of electricity for its daily activities. The annual electricity consumption of the farm is about 120,000 kWh. The largest share of electricity is needed for ventilation fans, milk machines and cooling of milk.
To decrease electricity bills, the owner invested in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that covers one fourth of the farm’s electricity needs (30,000 kWh). The investment was made in 2014 and the farm opted for a 33 kW photovoltaic system that, at the time, was the largest photovoltaic power plant in North Karelia. Photovoltaic panels were installed on a roof of a south-facing cowshed. The building was ideal for this purpose as it is surrounded by open fields and there are no trees around it to shade the PV panels.
The farm received renewable energy investment aid (EAFRD) for the investment through the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland 2014-2020.
The farm has also installed a geothermal heating system to replace oil heating and LED lighting solutions to further decrease its energy bills. The profitability of the farm has increased due to these investments. Moreover, the PV system and other measures have reduced the CO2 emissions produced by the farm.
The solar panel investment cost around 45,000 €. The farm received investment support from the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland 2014-2020. The support rate was 30 %.
Evidence of success
The solar PV system has decreased the farm’s electricity bills by one-fourth. This has affected the farm’s profitability. At the same time, the investment has reduced the farm’s CO2 emissions by approximately 4,750 kg per year.
The farm owner has been very pleased with the solar panel system. It is easy to maintain and use, it did not require building permits, the investment cost was fairly low and the estimated payback period is around 9 years.
If the system momentarily produces more electricity than is needed on the farm, the surplus can be fed into the national electricity grid. However, the compensation paid for the surplus electricity is very low.
Potential for learning or transfer
PV systems are suitable for farms due to their long lifespan. In addition, they do not cause emissions or noise, they are easy to use and the need for maintenance is very low.
Solar electricity systems can be applied to a wide range of applications on farms, such as irrigation, cooling, air conditioning, water heating or generating electricity for farm buildings. And as this example shows, the technology is suitable even for farms located in the northern part of Europe.
The costs of PV systems have declined over time, making them even more attractive and accessible options for farms that have high energy needs.
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