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March 02, 2011

Farms' Renewable Energy Production Shows Big Growth: USDA

The number of solar panels, wind turbines, and methane digesters on America's farms and ranches has increased significantly over the past decade, according to survey results released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on February 23. There are now 8,569 operations producing their own renewable energy, according to the 2009 On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey. Conducted by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service as a follow-up to the most recent Census of Agriculture, this was the first nationwide survey to look at renewable energy practices on America's farms and ranches.

According to the survey findings, solar panels were the most prominent way to produce on-farm energy. In 2009, farmers on 7,968 operations nationwide reported using photovoltaic and thermal solar panels. The use of wind turbines was reported by farmers on 1,420 operations across 48 states. The use of methane digesters was reported by 121 operations in 29 states. California leads the nation with 1,956 operations producing renewable energy, accounting for nearly a quarter of all participants in the United States. Colorado, Hawaii, and Texas were the other major states where farmers on at least 500 or more operations were producing their own renewable energy. See the USDA press release, a USDA fact sheetPDF, and the survey results.