Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, solar was not a hot topic of conversation. However, things are changing. Around the world, we can find innovative solutions for water collection in Bermuda, a never-ending vista of wind turbines in Germany, solar panels on nearly every house in Australia, and so much more in the push for renewable energy. I wanted to bring this push home to the farm.
This was no easy task; my parents were hesitant to say the least. Cost was the biggest factor. I remember them laughing while saying there was no way they’d be able to afford a mid-size solar operation. That’s where I stepped in by explaining the many tax credits available: 30% Federal, 19% State, plus depreciation. These numbers made a HUGE difference, and suddenly they weren’t laughing anymore. While crunching the numbers and projecting long-term savings, this project not only became a possibility but transformed into an exciting new venture that created much talk and buzz around the community. We calculated a conservative estimate for the 34,000 kWh system to pay for itself in 7 years, and that’s not even taking into account the near-future possibility of adding storage capacity. After that time frame there would be at least $5,000 in annual savings with the farm creating more energy than it consumes.
Even with these new figures my mom was the biggest skeptic and admittedly felt overwhelmed at first but with the help of a persistent (nagging) son, the more she learned about the process the more she grew open to the idea. I think I might have even seen her crack a smile a time or two. My dad was a bit more receptive to the concept - mostly because he was glad to see me home and would have wanted any project on the farm that would keep me there for a little longer. We did our due diligence, scouted for space that could provide for a ground-mounted system, shopped around for local solar installation companies, went through much confusing red tape, much of which came from a utility company that had little experience in this sector. It was definitely a process, but an exciting one.
When discussing solar, it typically come down to simple economics - jobs and the environment. For me, this project was different, it was something more than that—it was family. I’ll never forget when that switch was flipped, the unit was on. The expression on my Dad’s face is something I’ll never forget. He was silent, slowly surveying the land, land he’s worked for over 30 years, land he knows every inch of. Then a great smile grew from ear to ear. “All of this.. everything you see.. powered by the sun.”Unbelievable.” I was more satisfied by that moment than the entire solar project itself. Change can be difficult, it can be intimidating, overwhelming, but almost always worth it, especially when it’s a collaborative effort. This is exactly why we continue our work at Urban Ambassadors—to inspire, to empower, to show that real change is possible.
- Tanner Briggs Faaborg, Vice President