Several years ago the New York Times reported that farms in upstate New York were installing wind turbines in an effort to increase revenue. At the time of the article, the farm featured had 120 turbines earning between $5,000 and $10,000 each (depending on electricity generation). According to Horizon Wind Energy, Phase I of the project accounted for 231 MW, enough energy to power 64,000 homes. More recently, NPR carried a story about a farm in northern California that installed photovoltaic arrays on 8 acres, enough to generate electricity for roughly 750 homes.
In the book Green to Gold, to be reviewed by Chris DeArmond in a future post, John Deere is mentioned for the business they started that aimed to help farmers install wind energy. The unit has since been sold to Exelon, but the idea of working with farmers to increase their revenue through renewable energy sources has netted nearly 750MW of electricity generation capacity.
On a different note, composting of herbivorous animal waste (i.e. droppings from animals that only consume plant material), may also present some options. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times discussed composting pet waste, but farmers who have the capacity to compost livestock waste could also generate excess income. Last year, the LA Times ran a story about researchers at Hewlett-Packard who devised “a plan for combining cow chips and computer chips to build an environmentally friendly data center — powered by manure.” The system “would convert livestock waste into methane, to be used as fuel to generate electricity for data centers.”
These various approaches to clean energy production, waste mitigation, and economic health demonstrate the viability of the second green revolution. By diversifying their income stream, farmers can continue to focus on their agriculture, instead of working a second job in order to make ends meet.