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1208 PD: Nothing but ‘Clear Skies’ for Scott Brothers' solar panel project.

Published on 15 August 2008

Bruce and Brad Scott of Scott Brothers Dairy located in San Jacinto, California, have big plans this fall.

They are planning to reduce their energy bills, help the environment, decrease their carbon footprint and increase their sustainability marketing to consumers. With the help of Clear Skies Solar Inc. of Massapequa Park, New York, the Scott brothers are implementing a $1.7 million solar panel project.

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“We think it’s a great investment,” Brad Scott says. “We’re in the right location for it, being in southern California, and we’re in the right political climate.”

Ezra Green, CEO of Clear Skies Solar, also has high hopes for the project.

“The entire system should be completed by February of 2009,” Green says. “And we’re looking at a return on investment within five years of completion.”

The solar panels will be installed in three locations – a new special needs barn that the Scott brothers are constructing, a recently completed calf nursery barn and an existing commodity barn. Scott says all three locations were evaluated and determined by Clear Skies to “best utilize the direction of the sun” needed for the solar panels.

According to Green, the state of California offers a significant amount of financial support for environmental projects such as the solar energy system. Through the Production Based Incentive program (PBI), the Scott brothers will receive 22 cents for every kilowatt they produce per hour. In addition, the federal government will give them a 30 percent tax credit from the project.

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California isn’t the only place with sun
Although 90 percent of Clear Skies’ business is done in California, Green says other areas can and should look into solar panel systems. About 80 to 85 percent of the U.S. is ideal for the solar panel systems, he says. However, some locations in the Northwest do not receive enough sunlight to be suitable for solar energy production.

Clear Skies Solar installed a solar panel system on a 400-acre dairy farm in Montague, New Jersey, about five years ago. Green says they put in three separate systems: one for the barn, the second for the farm manager’s house and the third for the farm’s tool shed. The total operation consists of 144 solar panels, providing as much as 24 kilowatts of power. The success of the installation was partly due to the fact that New Jersey offers many incentives for “green energy” purposes.

“New Jersey was really the leader in solar energy,” Green says. “They were the first to offer programs for commercial solar operations.”

Green says California has also been influential, and states such as Maryland, Delaware, Oregon and Arizona have also started to adopt legislation for the “sustainable movement.”

The “S” word
Scott and his brother Bruce recognize that terms such as “sustainability” and “carbon footprint” aren’t exactly being used on a daily basis in the vocabulary of some producers.

“My dad just stands there and shakes his head at us, but these buzzwords aren’t anything for us to be afraid of,” Brad Scott says. “Most of what we’re doing, we’ve been doing for many years. Now, we’re just finding out ways to showcase it and capitalize on it.”

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In addition to installing the solar panels, the Scott brothers are trying to show their consumers they are environmentally friendly in other ways. Brad Scott says he and his brother do the best they can to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s Best Management Practices (BMPs). They have a water basin management plan and are continually working on ways to improve their nutrient management plans. The brothers also allow the local university to conduct research using their BMPs and fields.

“They are able to start putting accurate numbers behind their research concepts,” Scott says. “We’re helping them to develop true science to support regulations.”

The Scott brothers have also started using reclaimed water from their local municipal water district on their crop production fields.

The gains of “green energy”
Scott and Green agree that figuring out ways to reduce energy consumption on the farm is necessary and beneficial for both producers and consumers.

“We’re trying to get farmers to realize this technology is advantageous and profitable,” Green says.

With the price of oil on the rise, Green believes it is more than safe to assume the price of electricity will also continue to rise. Solar energy can save farmers huge amounts of money, he says.

The other advantage to the solar panel systems is that they last more than 25 years.

“You can’t find anything that’s guaranteed for 25 years these days,” Green says. “The savings are incredible, and these systems can stick around for decades on multi-generational farms.”

Although the Scott brothers are not ready to pass the reigns over to a new generation, they do look forward to having that option. For their farm, Scott says the system “just makes sense.”

Scott and Green are also quick to recognize that the solar panel system is also a great marketing tool.

“Farmers can now give back and provide good, clean, renewable energy,” Green says.

“The industry is always being scrutinized,” Scott says. “This is one of the good things producers can do to show consumers we care about the environment and we’re being proactive in the sustainability movement.”

For more information about Clear Skies Solar, check out their website at www.clearskiesgroup.com. PD

Emily Caldwell
Staff Writer
Progressive Dairyman

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