The solar air heat panels at RREAL, in action.

Heating things up on the farm: Using solar heat to dry crops in Central Minnesota

In their 2008 research project, RREAL researchers determined that while the upfront cost may be intimidating at first, it seems that using solar heat to dry agricultural crops eventually pays off—and not only in the financial sense. Farmers, consumers, and energy enthusiasts… read on!

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) launched a research project in 2008 to determine the value of using solar air heat to power the crop drying process. Jason Edens, a RREAL researcher for the project, explained its potential as an energy efficient method: “Having changed dramatically in the past century, crop drying today is an energy intensive process, heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Our state’s food and energy security are somewhat vulnerable to the vagaries of fuel supply and expense.” Solar heat, on the other hand, is not a finite resource.

The cost of crop drying has been a financial burden for farmers, and they are often seeking out more cost and energy efficient methods. These problems can potentially both be addressed at once with the use of solar air heat. Additionally, Edens identified potential social benefits of renewable crop drying: “It will also make small agricultural communities and farmers more resilient against the impact of rising fossil fuel costs. Energy crises will make crop drying financially challenging. At a time when small farmers are struggling to maintain their way of life, renewable and sustainable farming methods make sense for the individual farmer and state.”

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