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The Newest Thing Under the Sun: Solar Panels

The Newest Thing Under the Sun: Solar Panels
Solar panels help keep batteries charged for various agricultural purposes.

When Ryan Neal, Frankfort, wants to wash his hands after filling up the planter with seed, he simply opens the spigot on a water tank mounted to the back of the planter. He's always sure there will be water coming out because the system uses a pump powered by a battery.

So what, you say? Batteries aren't new. No, but using a small solar panel attached to the planter frame in an inconspicuous way isn't exactly something you see every day. The panel, small in size, collects enough sunlight and turns it into energy, driving the battery that delivers power to the pump for hand washing.

It's very convenient to be able to clean up before you get back in the cab to plant again, Ryan says.

Solar panels come to agriculture: This solar panel helps power an auxiliary battery. These farmers have a solar panel on the bank of their planter to power a hand-washing pump, and on the seed tender as well.

His father, Larry, also has a solar panel mounted on the side of his seed cart wagon. It's catching solar energy and turning it into electricity to charge a battery that helps supply power for the operating system for the seed tender wagon.

The Neals have found that the small solar panels and the auxiliary batteries they charge make good back-up systems and take advantage of free energy when the sun is shining.

As an aside, the seed tender is interesting, too. It resembles a gravity wagon, but it's divided in the middle so they can carry two hybrids or varieties to the field at once. The tender is equipped with a gasoline motor that powers the auger to fill the planter.

"We originally had the older planter plumbed so that we hooked hydraulic hoses from the tender into outlets on the back of the planter and powered the auger from that source," Larry says. "But if you needed to take seed to our other planter it was a problem because the hydraulic outlets didn't run to the back of the other planter. Now that the unit is self-contained, it's more flexible."

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