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Sonnen Batteries – a German-based solar storage company – was recently purchased by Shell Oil Company. As the new parent company looked to expand Sonnen’s reach into the North American market, they asked the business that installed Sonnen’s first battery in North America (Coastal Solar – Hinesville, GA) for their read on the market. Their answer? Farmers are the future of renewable energy.
Coastal Solar carved out a niche in the solar industry by providing farmers with solutions that cut their energy bill (for many, this is their second-highest expense) by more than half. They found success by specializing in systems for the agricultural industry and having an in-house grant writing team that boasts a more than 90% success rate in securing USDA REAP grants for qualifying customers. They even created a new company solely dedicated to the industry – Ag Solar Solutions.
Sonnen acted quickly to develop a unique, industrial-scale solar storage solution tailored to farmers. Ready for beta-testing, they deployed the first two systems on existing Coastal Solar customer farms, now serviced under the Ag Solar Solutions name.
The first two tests are just the beginning of Shell’s investment in renewable energy for agriculture through Sonnen. The company has carved out more than 1.2 million dollars for the beta testing partnership with Ag Solar Solution’s customers. The systems, expected to retail at more than $65,000, are given to the farmers for free in exchange for real-world data needed to perfect them for the market.
Early estimates indicate that the new system will allow farmers to save an additional 20% or more on electricity costs. For some, their energy bill could be nearly eliminated using the solar + storage technology. This means that farms can essentially make a one-time, depreciable investment into the equipment and then operate free from utility companies and ever-increasing charges.
Utilities have fought back against solar power, levying nontraditional fees and increased rates for farms that use the technology. Some have even been told they are “not allowed” to utilize solar power if they want to stay connected to the grid, but this new technology may, at some point, allow farmers to bypass the grid altogether.
Coastal Solar / Ag Solar Solutions CEO, Clay Sikes, said in a statement, “The result of our work with Sonnen will be the most advanced agricultural renewable energy package in the world. It far outpaces the ‘grid only’ methodology used by most farmers today who simply rent their power. When the base population of farmers understands they can own their own electricity-producing systems and farm and store sunshine, a dynamic shift will take place. As the tractor replaced the mule, so too will Solar + Storage replace ‘grid only’ power systems.”