Member Stories

Steve Bunse

Solar energy system helps DFA member save

Steve Bunse, who operates Bunse Dairy in Cosby Mo., recently installed a solar energy system to help power his home and his dairy operation.

“The solar system has worked really well,” he says. “There’s really not a lot to do with it — it just does it’s own thing. It’s clean, energy efficient and everything is right here. This is totally environmentally friendly, as I see it.”

Bunse’s son, Nate, who helps the farm’s crop operation, was the one who suggested investigating using solar technology on the farm. From there, Bunse talked with solar company representatives, his local power company and, most importantly, others in the area who had installed solar energy systems.

“I talked to a couple of companies and then to another guy who had put some solar panels in,” Bunse says. “He was real pleased with them. He’s got an auto repair shop and the system was doing a real good job for him.”

After doing some research and choosing a company to work with, the construction process went by quickly. Bunse said it took about a day to install the solar panels on a pole barn on the property, then two or three more days to install the inverter that interfaces with the power grid.

From April through November, the system produced more power than the dairy needed, allowing Bunse to build up credits with Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), which helped to cut his energy costs during the winter.

“The inverters convert the power and run the system,” Bunse says. “In the summertime, when the days are longer, it will provide all my energy and I’ll have a little bit extra. In the wintertime, I’ll have to pick up a little bit of the cost.”

Bunse took advantage of renewable energy rebates offered by KCP&L and estimates the 23-kilowatt system will pay for itself within five years. He advises other dairy producers carefully plan the location of their solar panels, to thoroughly check recommendations on the installation company and to take advantage of rebates, tax credits and renewable energy grants by working with your power company and state and local officials.

While lower input costs and better environmental stewardship have been immediate benefits, Bunse also says the system is a way of preparing for the possibility of increased energy prices, as the United States considers cleaner alternatives to coal.

“If you can hedge off that, you’re going to be ahead in the future even more than now, probably,” he says.