- Energy: solar energy
Problem and Justification
Due to increasing energy costs, and decreasing cost of solar technology, many farms in Maryland are considering solar electric installations to power their operations. Maryland’s ambitious energy policy also includes the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring 50% of the state’s electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources by 2030 (including 14.5% from solar energy), as well as, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act which calls for a 25% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020. However, only 7.25% of farms in Maryland currently have solar panels installed with many agricultural communities lacking the knowledge, technical expertise and experience necessary to facilitate this demand for on-farm solar.
A needs assessment conducted in 2018 identified the educational needs of Maryland Extension Educators and Specialists related to energy conservation and clean energy technology. The results from 98 completed surveys (33% response rate) indicated that educational priorities were related to solar PV (15%) and agricultural solar development (10%); with farmers reported as the most significant group currently seeking energy-related information (27%). Farm-based education related to energy decisions, renewable energy technology, and energy efficiency (46%) were also reported as priorities to enhance Extension efforts in Maryland; with a preference given to in-service training opportunities (43%). The proposed educational project would provide skill acquisition and knowledge gain related to on-farm solar PV, which would support this documented need for clean energy workshops (14%) and demonstrations (20%).
Solution and Approach
As such, 80 Extension educators and other agricultural service providers would participate in regional train-the-trainer workshops to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes and awareness needed to implement on-farm solar PV. The train-the-trainer approach will help Maryland Extension learn about the options, opportunities and challenges associated with on-farm solar PV while ensuring farm sustainability by educating farmers on the appropriate applications of on-farm solar PV. The project will be coordinated statewide while specific programming will be customized and delivered to Extension faculty and staff on a regional basis. The educational curriculum and associated workshops will address the basic principles of solar PV technology, an exploration of appropriate on-farm applications, and an overview of solar contracts and leasing options relevant to Maryland farmers.
Milestones and Performance Target
Through participation in one of four regional train-the-trainer workshops, forty (40) Extension educators and other agricultural service providers in Maryland will gain the technical skills, knowledge, attitude, and awareness that is needed to provide 8 regional educational and training programs to farmers in Maryland interested in implementing on-farm solar photovoltaics (PV). Forty (40) of the 120 regional farmers (33% adoption rate) receiving guidance from Extension educators and other agricultural service providers will make changes to their operation to implement 500 kW of on-farm solar PV in Maryland.
Performance targets from proposal:
Forty (40) Extension educators and other agricultural service providers who gain skills and knowledge in the application of on-farm solar photovoltaics (PV) will provide 8 regional educational and training programs in Maryland (50% implementation rate) to 120 farmer beneficiaries with the support of the University of Maryland Extension network. A total of 40 farmers will make changes (33% adoption rate) to their operation to implement 500 kW of on-farm solar PV in Maryland.