Electrification of Farming Structures Through Adaptable Solar Power Systems in the Northeast United States: An Analysis on Decision Making and Solar Utility

Open Access
Hakun, Jennafer S
Area of Honors:
Energy Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jeffrey Brownson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sarma V Pisupati, Honors Advisor
  • Energy Engineering
  • Solar Energy
  • Agriculture
  • Microgrids
This study was conducted to determine an optimal design for a small-scale adaptable power system that could be used to provide energy for electricity loads in sustainable farming locations in the Northeast United States. This research project analyzed two locales in Pennsylvania. The first, was the Penn State Student Farm located in State College, PA representing a rural sustainable farm. The second, was the Mill Creek Urban Farm in Philadelphia, PA representing an urban sustainable farm. The Mill Creek Urban Farm had a higher price of electricity and the ability to easily connect to an electric grid while the Penn State Student Farm had a lower price of electricity and did not have the ability to connect to an electric grid. A stakeholder interview was conducted for each locale and a preference and risk aversion study was completed to determine the optimal design for both locales. Additionally, an electricity load analysis was done to establish the total amount of electricity needed at each locale. The final system design included 12 photovoltaic modules (Grape, 100W) along with a 200 V inverter (SMA America SB1100U-SBD) and a 52V / 24 Ah lithium-ion battery. This design produced enough energy in both locales to accomplish the electrical loads. Based on the stakeholder preference, it was determined that the Penn State Student Farm should install the system with the assistance of grants and donations for immediate benefit of the system. Because the adaptable power system would be stand-alone, all of the energy produced would be used at the student farm and no profit could be made off of excess generation. The Mill Creek Urban Farm should finance their system through grants and donations as well. This adaptable power system should be connected to the national electric grid because the farm has a low electrical load and the excess energy produced could be sold to the local utility as revenue for the local community. By utilizing client preference, adaptable power systems could be used to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in agriculture and provide electricity to areas where farmers cannot easily connect to the electric grid. By utilizing the beneficial relationships between food and energy, production methods could become more sustainable and provide further insight into how to efficiently provide healthy food and clean energy to a growing world population.