Time to use solar power for farming

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Time to use solar power for farming

Jühnde is a farming village near Gottinggen, Germany. The small village of about 170 households has a self-sufficient energy system with renewable energy instead of using fossil fuel. The surplus energy after village’s consumption is sold to other areas for additional income.

In Europe, farmers and coops voluntarily participate in renewable energy projects and make income in addition to farming.

According to the recent data by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, the farming population is constantly decreasing year after year. Moreover, as of 2015, 40 percent of the farmers are over age 65, and the average income of farming household is 37 million won ($32,244), about 60 percent of average household income in cities. It is urgent that we seek solutions for decreasing and aging of population and the income gap between urban and rural areas.

Meanwhile, the government announced a solar panel installation program for rural areas as a way to increase income and expand renewable energy. It is a plan to resolve the challenges that farmers face while responding to climate change.

At present, 63 percent of the 4.1 GW solar panels in Korea are installed in rural areas. But they are mostly initiated by out-of-town companies and individuals, and farmers have relatively little information and support for renewable energy. Therefore, the Korea Energy Agency plans to reinforce long-term, low-interest loans to the farmers for installation of solar panels. It will partner with local farming coops to offer comprehensive consulting, from information sessions to startup training to business planning.

When 10 farmers use unused farming plots to set up 1 MW-solar panel project with specific support and assistance, each person is expected to earn about 10 million won annually in net profit. It is expected to provide five times more lucrative model than farming on a 1320m² (0.33 acrea) land. The farmer-initiated solar power generation business can be a new business model for expansion of renewable energy and another pension product for the farmers. Also, it will help the rural economy that is struggling from changing diet of the people as well as decreasing and aging of the population.

Kang Nam-hoon,
CEO of the Korea Energy Agency

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