delware environmental institute

Solar panels latest in green technology at UD dairy farm

Solar panels latest in green technology at UD dairy farm

The University of Delaware's dairy farm serves as a model for farmers in the region and leads the way in utilizing the latest green methods of farming and green technology.

“We developed a master plan five years ago to modernize the farm and as funding has become available, we are putting the plan into practice,” said Tom Sims, deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry.

The most recent farm project has been the installation of 44 solar panels on the roof of the manure recycling facility at the dairy farm as a green initiative to provide clean electrical power. UD had already installed solar panels in Southern Delaware on a poultry house project on a Laurel Farm owned by Allen Family Foods.

“Our goal is to develop a sustainable dairy that not only uses solar energy to help operate its equipment but to demonstrate it is doable and practical,” Sims said.

The solar panels are part of a 9.2-kilowatt system that has the potential to produce an estimated 11,000 kilowatt hours per year. The system is monitored to see how much power it is producing and in time it is planned that the monitoring will be tied in with UD's Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), working with Dan Leathers, deputy dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and co-director of DEOS. Those interested can follow the information on Twitter.

“We require more electricity than is produced by the panels to run the manure separation, feed storage and storm water treatment facilities, but these rarely run all at once,” Sims said.

The project involved a team from UD, working with UD alumnus Bruce Wanex who is the owner of Blue Skies Solar and Wind Power, which installed the solar panels. “We picked the shed location because of its strength to support the panels, its roof angle and southern exposure,” Wanex said.

Team members included Anne-Marie Crossan, maintenance engineer in facilities, and Jennifer McDermott, manager in agriculture and natural resources, who worked on the technical proposal and getting the necessary permissions from Newark to install the solar panels; Larry McGuire, project manager of facilities who is in charge of running the facility; and Steve Hegedus, a scientist with the Institute for Energy Conversion.

Other green projects at the farm have included converting a landfill into a natural resource area, a wetland project, stream restoration, a manure recycling facility, and a new milking parlor, among others.

“The dairy farm, which is managed by Richard Morris, serves not only as a model and outreach project but also serves as an important hands-on classroom and educational resource for UD students,” Sims said.

Article by Sue Moncure
Photos by Danielle Quigley