Dairy is Arizona’s first to go solar-powered

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Dairy is Arizona’s first to go solar-powered

Fri, 11/12/2010

According to the National Weather Service, Arizona is the sunniest state in the country (followed in order by California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas). That makes it the perfect place for solar electricity production; yet it is only now that a dairy there has begun harnessing the power of the sun.

Zimmerman Dairy, a 1,000-cow family operation in Queen Creek, about 30 minutes southeast of Phoenix, is now online with phase one of a two-part photovoltaic solar project that will ultimately provide all of its electricity needs. Phase two is planned for completion by the end of 2011.

The project is funded by the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) through cash grants and guaranteed loans. The Zimmerman project has received both. Construction financing and a term loan to support the project are provided by Farm Credit Services Southwest. Additional support will be provided by Salt River Project through the EarthWise Solar Energy program that provides incentives for residential and commercial electricity customers who invest in solar.

Rather than a roof-mounted system, the Zimmerman’s solar collection panels will be ground-mounted, allowing easier installation, cleaning, maintenance, and system expansion. Solar panels have a 25-year warranty and a productive lifespan of 35 years or more. They produce electricity with no pollution whatsoever.

Vicky and Bill Zimmerman (second and third from right in photo) were presented with their USDA REAP grant funding of $336,901 at last month’s Arizona Dairy Production Conference in Tempe.