Solar for Large-Scale Agriculture: Denny

Denny Hamm has farmed in Chatfield, MN his whole life and was the first in his area to install solar panels after adding on to the farm’s structures in 2012.

“I thought that with the new shed here I ought to utilize the roof. I thought of solar because way back in grade school there was a book in the library I looked at about how to make a window solar heater, so that got me interested and thought this might be the time to start making my own electricity.”

Denny met Solar Connection’s operations manager at a local farm show.

“They were super to work with. If I had any questions, I’d just call, and I knew it would be taken care of. That meant a lot to me to have a company to work with where I didn’t have to worry about any of the small stuff.”

“It doesn’t matter who I get in the office, they’ll get me in contact with the person I need.”

The fact that solar equipment is so robust and reliable is especially important for Denny because they are relatively inaccessible on top of his shed.

“It’s nice to have a piece of equipment that never shuts down. It just starts itself up each morning. Most people don’t even know the panels are here unless they see an article in the paper or hear me talking about it, so it’s not like a windmill, which some people think are an eyesore.”

But Denny has fielded lots of questions from those who do know about his system.

“They’re surprised that I’m making more than I use. I think a lot of people still think you need a huge solar farm just to produce what you can use yourself.

“When I went over things with the banker, he said he couldn’t see any reason not to do it. It was easy to see it was going to be a money maker and a money saver. Right now, I’m producing about $5,300 a year with the solar panels. We’re not using it all, but eventually, we are going to be using more, so I’m glad I went with the full 39-kilowatt [which is the largest system most farms consider]. Because they last for a long time, it will take some years to pay for it, but after that, it’s all free. And there hasn’t been any maintenance.”

Denny doesn’t have specific plans for the money he’ll save.

“Oh, there are so many things. New machinery. Get my bills paid down. It’s hard to say. Probably upgrade machinery, because you’re always looking to do that. So this will really help out after they’re paid off. Maybe a good vacation. You never know.”

But for Denny, solar isn’t just about economics.

“You have to have the initiative to think ahead and say, ‘I’m going to try to make this world a little bit better place for the next generations. I’m hoping I’m doing something for myself and the community. It takes a little bit to do it, a little bit of money up front to get everything even, but it feels good that I’m doing something for the environment.”

Denny raises corn, beans, oats and hay on about 650 acres in Chatfield, MN. He also raises feed steer, chickens, pigs, goats, rabbits, ducks and geese, who are all grateful Denny decided to go solar, especially during the winter months, as Denny can incorporate more lights and heaters for his animals.