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1 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Turning tobacco fields into solar farms

www.engineering.com.
Turning tobacco fields into solar farms
Joshua Pearce, professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, has conducted several studies investigating the benefits of having large-scale solar deployments replace existing coal or nuclear power. Photo courtesy of Sarah Bird/Michigan Tech.

Joshua Pearce, professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, has conducted several studies investigating the benefits of having large-scale solar deployments replace existing coal or nuclear power, according to www.engineering.com. Joshua Pearce, professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, has conducted several studies investigating the benefits of having large-scale solar deployments replace existing coal or nuclear power.

A case study published by Michigan Technological University researchers Ram Krishnan and Joshua Pearce found that converting tobacco fields to solar farms could save thousands of lives annually. The study, titled “Economic Impact of Substituting Solar Photovoltaic Electric Production for Tobacco Farming,” analyzed the potential of such an exchange in North Carolina due to the state’s robust tobacco production as well as its ample sunlight. Krishnan and Pearce focused their economic analysis on a specific group of stakeholders—North Carolina landowners—but the broader conclusions of the project are related to the impact on public health on a global scale.

What’s in It for the Farmers?

In spite of consistent volume declines worldwide, tobacco farming remains a highly profitable undertaking for many farmers in the southeastern United States. Converting land that is being used for tobacco farming to solar energy production can be a tough sell given the high cost of panel installation. Whether such a change makes sense for landowners depends on individual circumstances, but Krishnan and Pearce demonstrated that the decision could be a good one for many. By forecasting the potential profitability of tobacco farming versus solar energy production years into the future, their study showed that the solar option is likely to drastically outperform tobacco.

In their modeling, the researchers assumed modest, shortage-induced price increases for tobacco in the coming years. Next, they predicted the value of solar energy over the same time period using the historical price increases of electricity as a model. It is crucial to note that these “escalation rates” are likely to increase as fossil fuels become more costly in the coming years. The researchers then juxtaposed this solar profit model against the one they created for tobacco. The results were clear: going forward, farmers are likely to derive much more value per acre if their land is occupied by solar panels instead of tobacco plants.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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