Renewable energy on the farm

John Christensen
Jerusalem farmer John Kriese, assisted by Tom Eskildsen of Yates County Soil & Water Conservation District, describes the solar-powered watering system which provides enough water for 50 head of cattle.

The Jerusalem Committee for Renewable Energy and the Yates County Cooperative Extension welcomed 25 guests to a tour of renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy installations within the town Sept. 22.

The tour was conceived as an informational opportunity for Yates County residents facing ever-increasing energy costs. The alternatives and possibilities for funding are intended to help more people take advantage of more economical and environmentally conscientious resources, and save utility companies the cost of building more generation facilities.

Directed by Elizabeth Newbold, Sustainable Agriculture Educator Director and accompanied by Cooperative Extention Director Nicole Landers, the tour began with a visit to Brookside Farm on Corwin Road. Owners Lenn and Debbie Saner raise organic hay and grass-fed angus cattle on their farm established in 1790. In 2009, they had Finger Lakes Renewable Energy install 36 solar panels on one of their equipment sheds. The electricity they generate powers the farm and the horizontal geothermal heating and cooling system that was installed in 2011 by Gleason Geothermal, which provides all heating cooling and humidity control for their home. Additionally, the number and placement of the solar panels on the south-facing roof slope, doesn't detract from the architecture of the period shed or from the much older restored barns nearby.

The next stop was Spring Pond Farm, owned by Penn Yan Academy Agriculture teacher John Kriese, who raises Hereford cattle. With the design help of Nancy Glazier and Tom Eskildsen of the Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District, Kriese installed a solar water pumping system to enhance an existing spring for watering the cattle. The always entertaining teacher described how the off-grid solar system pumps water from a collection pit to a 1550 gal. holding tank up hill. From there through a series of surface pipes and valves, Kriese can direct water to portable troughs in any of his numerous grazing paddocks, and drain the entire system for winter. About 75 percent of the cost was paid for by a grant from Finger Lakes Resource Conservation and Development Council.

C-n-L Paca Farm also benefits from solar energy, but began with a non-commercial wind turbine installed by Pyrus Energy atop a 60 foot steel mast, the highest possible without stabilizing wires. Owners Chris and Lisa McNinch described the construction, regulation, and funding of the project, as well as the energy offset it provides for their home and alpaca farm. This was added to with a solar array installed on a shed roof addition to their barn constructed especially for the purpose, making the addition also eligible for funding. According to Chris, a financial advisor with Ameriprize, despite the considerable capital cost of such installation, the help offered by state agencies and NYSEG, and the tax depreciation of the improvements makes the investment more than worthwhile. The McNinches also make use of a far more modest do-it-yourself system Chris bought at a local farm supply store to light a garden shed, and a portable solar electric fencing unit from Premier 1 to contain their chickens and protect them from predators.

Hunt Country Vineyard was the last stop on the tour, and the visitors were able to see a geothermal heating and cooling unit in mid-construction. Owner Art Hunt has been experimenting with alternative means of heating and cooling the winery's storage facilities since the early 1980s. Once completed, this new and far more extensive system will be used to heat and cool the winery, the tasting room, the warehouse, and a side workshop. Hunt showed the pumps, heat exchange units, and ducting that will allow the forced air system to provide far more affordable climate control for wine storage, a vital part of their operation. Despite the occasional difficulties in dealing with state bureaucracies, Hunt believes that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has made the growth of alternative energy sources far more viable and attractive in New York.

Newbold provided the following website/list of incentives for renewable energy systems.

In August 2012, Governor Cuomo signed legislation further incentivizing the installation of solar electric (PV) systems. Note: for nearly all of these incentives, the dwelling must be on the electric grid.


For PV, solar thermal, wind, geothermal:

Tax credit: 30% (no maximum)

For solar thermal: half or more of the energy used to heat the dwelling's water must be from the solar thermal system.

Fuel cells: $500/0.5 kW

New York State:

Clean Heating Fuel Tax Credit: (for biodiesel)

$0.01/g for each % biodiesel

Maximum of $0.20/g

Expired 12/31/2011

Residential Solar Tax Credit: (PV, solar thermal)

25% up to $5,000 (equipment and installation)

25 kW maximum (50 kW for condos and coops)

Local Option - Solar, Wind, Biomass Energy Systems Exemption

Property tax reduction of 100% of the property tax increase due to the system

Residential Solar Sales Tax Exemption: (PV, solar thermal, passive solar, space heat)

100% exemption from state sales tax

Residential Wood Heating Fuel Exemption

100% exemption for cord wood from state sales tax and option for municipalities to exempt from local taxes

NYSERDA Programs:

Small wind:

$3.50/annual kWh for first 10,000 kWh

$1.00/annual kWh for next 115,000 kWh

$0.30/annual kWh for energy production >125,000 kWh

Incentive: lesser of $400,000 or 50% of the installed cost of the system

Maximum size: 2MW or 110% of site's needs (whichever is less)

Expires 12/31/2015 or when funds are exhausted



Maximum: 40% of costs after available tax credits

Residential: $10,500 (non-residential: $75,000; non-profit: $37,500)

Size limit: 110% of site's demand

Expires 12/31/2015

Solar Thermal:

$1.50 per kWh up to 80% of site's demand

Maximum: residential: $4,000 (non-residential: $25,000)

No maximum size

Expires 12/31/2015

In addition, there are various loan programs, primarily through NYSERDA, as well as periodic rebates for energy-efficient equipment (Energy Star-rated refrigerators, etc.).