In 1937, Beth Talley’s grandfather started up a diary
in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina,
more than an hour southwest of Greensboro. Today, Mrs. Talley
and her husband Rick continue the family tradition as owner-operators
of the Talley Ho Dairy, raising and milking a herd of 200
Holstein cows. Their cows average about 22,000 lbs of milk
a year that the Talleys sell to the Maryland Virginia Cooperative.
The operation requires the use of 300-500 gallons of hot
water per day at around 145°F to sanitize the milking
equipment, wash the tanks and help cut butterfat residue in
the milk handling equipment. So far, Rick Talley has relied
on electricity to heat his water but that is about to change.
Later this spring/summer he will be installing a solar thermal
system to heat the water. “The dairy business can be
tough,” says Talley, “If I can save on my electric
hot water bill that will be good for my business.”
The solar hot water system at the Talley Ho Dairy will consist
of ten 4x8-foot panels that will be placed on the barn roof.
With the help of a small pump, the system circulates water
through the panels where it absorbs the heat from the sun.
The solar-heated water flows out of the panels to be stored
in a 300-gallon drain-back storage tank. The milk house’s
incoming cold water flows through a heat exchanger in the
storage tank where it is pre-heated with the free solar energy
before it flows into the propane-fired hot water tank to be
used as needed.
The solar hot water system should reach water temperatures
from 140-160°F, and even higher in the summer. The electric
hot water heater will serve as a back-up, when needed.
“Solar hot water systems are actually pretty simple
technology,” say Bill Bostic of Evergreen Energy Co.
“Whether your are in Nova Scotia or North Carolina,
as long as the sun shines, there is free energy available
for you to harvest. If properly installed and maintained,
they can easily last 20-30 years. I have many customers from
the early ‘80s that have saved thousands of dollars
in energy cost over the last two decades. This technology
The Talley Ho Dairy’s new system fully installed costs
nearly $20,000, but thanks to current Federal and State support
for solar systems, Rick Talley faces much more favorable economics.
With Bill Bostic’s help on the USDA 9006 renewable energy
grant application, Rick Talley was able to obtain about $4,400
towards the cost of the system. Starting January 1, 2006 (and
effective through December 31, 2007) a 30% Federal tax credit
is in effect for solar systems. Furthermore, businesses that
install solar systems for their operations can depreciate
them over five years. And at the state-level, North Carolina
provides a 35% corporate tax credit on the cost of the installation
that can be taken in equal amounts over five years.
The final cost to the Talley Ho Dairy will be around $2,500
and Mr. Talley expects that the system will pay for itself
in about three years.
Goat Lady Dairy
The Goat Lady Dairy is located on lovely, rolling hills south
of Greensboro, North Carolina. For almost 10 years, Steve
Tate and his family have been raising goats and producing
handmade farmstead cheese. With the milk from their herd of
60 goats and some additional milk purchased from other goat
operations, Goat Lady Dairy (www.goatladydairy.com)
produces 400-600 lbs of cheese each week from March to December.
In the winter months, just before kidding season, the Tates
get a break from milking and making cheese. But Steve Tate
is already thinking about next season’s operations.
He is about to install a solar thermal system that will provide
much of the hot water needed to clean the milking parlor,
milk bulk tank, and all the cheese room equipment. “We
are committed to nurturing the land and operating our business
based on principles of sustainable agriculture,” said
Tate, “so looking to the sun as a source of energy seemed
natural. But in this case, we will also have significant savings
from greatly reducing our use of propane to heat our water.”
The solar hot water system at the Goat Lady Dairy will consist
of five 4x10-foot panels mounted on the south facing roof
of the barn.
Steve Tate expects that the hot water temperature for their
operations will easily exceed 150°F and that the propane-fired
hot water heater will mainly function as a back-up on cloudy
While the reduction in energy costs is attractive in itself,
current Federal and State support for renewable energy has
helped to greatly improve the economics. The Goat Lady Dairy
solar thermal system will cost $10,000, fully installed. To
make the deal more attractive, the Tates:
- Applied for, and received, a Federal Farm Bill grant
- Will us a 30-percent federal tax credit effective through
December 31, 2007 for solar systems.
- Will depreciate the system over five years in another
renewable energy incentive.
- Will use a 35-percent North Carolina corporate tax credit
on the cost of the installation that can be taken in equal
amounts over five years.
Add it all up, and the $10,000 solar thermal system is costing
Steve Tate less than $1,500. “The cost of propane has
gone up 25 percent since last year,” Tate says. “At
this level of fuel prices, this system will pay for itself
in less than two years!”