Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Ernest Bazen

Committee Members

Burton English, Dan McLemore, Michael Wilcox

Abstract

Due to rising energy costs, renewable energy sources have become an increasingly important national issue. The rising cost of fuel coupled with the increased environmental awareness of carbon emissions has led to renewed research in renewable energy sources. The agricultural sector, especially broiler production, is an energy intensive industry. Poultry production (broilers and layers) is also the largest confined animal enterprise in Tennessee (Warren 2002). Furthermore, the increasing cost of heating fuel and electricity has put a financial strain on Tennessee broiler producers (Brown 2007; Railey 2007). Finding alternative sources of energy is important to the future financial performance of broiler producers in Tennessee and elsewhere. Solar energy has been suggested as one of the most promising frontiers in energy conversion (Bradford 2007).

The feasibility for solar heating applications in agriculture has been evaluated in the past. However, the majority of the studies were performed during the energy crisis of the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, capital costs for solar technologies have decreased and substantial gains in technical efficiencies have occurred. Additionally, there are financial incentives for adopting solar energy applications which were not available in the past. This research project compares the solar heating feasibility for broiler houses in two locations in Tennessee where broiler production is prevalent and differences in solar radiation exist.

The overall objective of this research is to estimate the economic feasibility of Tennessee broiler producers’ adopting a solar thermal heating system to heat broiler houses. Climatic data were collected from the Southeast Regional Climate Center (2007). Also, telephone interviews with production specialists from each region provided target bird growth specifications and production characteristics. This study utilizes a simulation model approach that integrates several parameters used in the literature along with new parameters addressing current economic conditions and financial incentives.

Results indicate that small solar heating systems that provide a portion of broiler producers’ heating needs are more financially feasible than large systems. Also, production and management characteristics such as house size and broiler weight are a significant determinant on whether solar heating is a good investment. Adoption of small solar heating systems is recommended for Bradley County producers.

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