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Farming’s Bright Future

WASHINGTON, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Over the past year, farmers in one small Iowa city have been using technology on their farms that their peers just a few miles away havent adopted yet.

You dont need to tell farmers much about the importance of sun. But some Washington, Iowa farmers are helping each other understand how solar panels could change farming.

"We use sunlight to grow corn, these also use sunlight to make energy for us also, said farmer Ken Reed, who has solar panels on his home and buildings in which he houses hogs.

"We deal mostly in solar electric energy with our ag producers around here, said CB Solar President Tyler Bacon. He says about 90% of his business is installing solar panels for farmers in southeastern Iowa. They use a lot of electricity so that's where we can help them the most.

Farmer Mike Bates says drying his corn is expensive.

"If I can go and generate my own electricity and save 15 cents a bushel, and not have that electric bill during drying season, that's what I'm after, to cut my costs, said Bates, who has panels on the roof of the structure where he raises turkeys.

Farmers say the price of electricity has only gone up, but as it climbs, solar panels pay for themselves even faster.

"There was a time in 2013, continuing today, where return on your investments were less than two years, said Bacon.

"We used to have half the cost of electricity before and it would make it difficult for the panels to pay, said Reed. But now since we've doubled the cost of electricity, it pays out pretty quick."

And yet, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says Washington is the only place he knows where many farmers have panels installed.

"You can see the folks that we talked to, they're very excited with what they have, they've interested in adding more as time goes on, said Northey.

"We've always been great at embracing new technology and adopting new things, said Iowa State Representative Jarad Klein.

Bacon says part of the reason for the quick return on investment are rebates for using solar energy. Even without those rebates, the solar panels still pay for themselves in five to six years instead of less than two.

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