Colorado State University studies solar energy for feedlots

Colorado State University’s Rural Energy Center has completed 10 initial economic feasibility assessments for solar energy at Colorado feedlots, and the results are promising. Animal feeding operations participating in the Feedlot Assessments for Solar Energy program would install solar arrays between four and 500 kilowatts to offset their electricity use. For reference, an average home in Colorado would need to install a five kW array to offset its electricity use.

The cost of an average solar PV system among feedlots participating in the study is $187,000 before incentives but gets down to $69,000 after incentives. Incentives include a 30 percent federal tax credit and grants from both USDA and the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The average system would have a 7 percent return on investment and only three years of negative cashflow on a cumulative basis. Solar arrays could be installed on buildings, open space or even as shade structures over open feedlots. The solar arrays being evaluated would tie into the grid and be used to offset the electricity costs of pumping water, lighting, ventilation and other agricultural uses.

CSU is continuing to accept animal feeding operations and diversified farms with animal agriculture into the FASE program. Participants get a free assessment report that provides estimated system sizes, costs, savings and other information needed to decide whether investing in a solar array is feasible. Applicants must receive 51 percent or more of their gross receipts from agriculture. Visit to submit the short application. Cary Weiner, CSU Rural Energy Center director, can be contacted with questions at [email protected] or 970-491-3784.