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California Farmers Lead the way in On-Farm Renewable Energy Production

Use of wind turbines for renewable energy production on Midwestern farms is on the rise. Photo courtesy of USDA Rural Development.

Use of wind turbines for renewable energy production on farms is on the rise. Photo courtesy of USDA Rural Development.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the U.S. Department of Agriculture blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the agency’s rich science and research portfolio.

Whether visiting Napa or making my way across California’s central valley, I see more and more solar panels and wind turbines on the Golden State’s farms and ranches. And that’s not surprising to me since California has been leading the way towards energy independence and renewable energy production and use.

When it comes to on-farm renewable energy production, California farms and ranches now make up more than 20 percent of all operations in the nation with solar, wind and methane digester use. There are now 1,956 California farms producing renewable energy, according to the results of the On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) last week.

California farmers reported using solar panels most often for renewable energy production.  More than half of all photovoltaic panels installed on farms in the United States within the past five years were in the Golden State. Wind turbines and methane digesters are less prominent and are used by 134 and 14 farms respectively.

While California is leading the nation, it is noteworthy that every single state now has at least some farms and ranches producing their own renewable energy. Texas, Hawaii and Colorado all have more than 500 operations participating in this increasingly popular way of generating power. Overall, according to reports NASS received from farmers, the number of solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters installed in the United States has grown by more than 800 percent over the last decade.

NASS conducted a survey focused on on-farm renewable energy production because of the growing interest in renewable energy on America’s farms and ranches. The survey provided the first-ever insight into the agriculture industry’s contribution towards producing renewable energy. Going forward, NASS will expand its data collection efforts to encompass an even broader range of renewable energy-related production and uses.

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