Getting Started

Table of Contents

  1. The Importance of Energy Conservation
  2. Common Misconceptions About Renewable Energy
  3. Deciding What Type of Renewable Energy Fits Your Needs
  4. General Planning Issues and Regulations
  5. Business Models for Your On-Farm Renewable Energy Project
  6. Additional Resources

Finding the right conservation methods or renewable energy system for your farm requires research and planning, so take time to do your homework. This page outlines some of the general points to consider. Once you've narrowed down the choices, you can turn to other pages of this Business Information Bundle for more information on energy conservation and specific renewable energy technologies.

The Importance of Energy Conservation

Before you consider generating energy, start by reducing your energy use. Steps such as insulating your buildings, switching to energy-efficiency lighting and keeping fans and motors well maintained will pay off with significant energy savings.

The up-front costs of energy conservation are significantly lower than those associated with installing a renewable energy system, and the payback periods are much shorter. If you decide to then install a renewable energy system, you can size it smaller because your energy needs are lower or you can generate additional electricity to sell to the power grid.

Common Misconceptions About Renewable Energy

  • Myth: Renewable energy is only for hard-core conservationists or people without a connection to the power grid.
    Fact: For many farmers, generating your own energy can be a smart business move that provides a good return on investment.
  • Myth: Renewable energy is untested technology.
    Fact: Most renewable energy technologies have been in commercial use for decades, while some have been used for centuries. Over that time, efficiency and reliability have increased.
  • Myth: Renewable energy systems are expensive.
    Fact: As more and more people turn to renewable energy and as the technology advances, prices are coming down. There are also a number of rebates, grants and incentives that can make a system more affordable. And over the long term, a renewable energy system will save you money by reducing your energy costs.
  • Myth: Installing a renewable energy system is simple and straightforward.
    Fact: Do your research carefully and expect to encounter a few frustrations and complications before everything is running smoothly.

Deciding What Type of Renewable Energy Fits Your Needs

The Integration of Renewable Energy on Farms website offers an interactive tool to help you learn more about different renewable energy technologies.

Take the time to determine exactly what you need and what system will suit you best. offers self-assessment tools that can help you find the best fit.

Keep in mind that if you generate electricity, you'll have to decide whether to store it or put it on the power grid. Each option requires planning and has pros and cons that you will need to weigh.

General Planning Issues and Regulations

Under Ontario's Provincial Policy Statement, alternative energy systems and renewable energy systems are permitted in settlement areas, rural areas and prime agricultural areas in accordance with provincial and federal requirements.

However, depending on the type of system you plan to install and the local bylaws in your municipality, there are certain requirements you may need to meet. Check the technology pages on this website for specific planning issues and regulations that may apply to the system you have in mind, and contact your municipality to find out about any local approvals or permits required.

Business Models for Your On-Farm Renewable Energy Project

While some types of renewable energy systems are simple to operate, others are more time-consuming and complex and may be best operated as a partnership, co-operative or separate corporation.

The Integration of Renewable Energy on Farms website offers a summary of different business models you can apply to your renewable energy project, while provides tips on preparing a business plan.

For more information on co-operative models, see the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association's Community Power Guidebook.

Additional Resources

Publications and Websites

You'll find excellent information at the Integration of Renewable Energy on Farms website, a partnership between Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture Canada and more than 20 agricultural and energy organizations across the country. offers self-assessment tools, business plans, case studies and renewable technology overviews for farmers, while the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association has a number of excellent publications.

Online Tools

Natural Resources Canada's free RETScreen software evaluates the energy production and savings, costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk for a variety of renewable energy systems.

Natural Resources Canada also offers a number of other software tools to model different renewable energy systems.

Agriculture Canada's GHGFarm software is a free tool that lets you estimate your greenhouse gas emissions and calculate ways to reduce them.

Renewable Energy Workshops

For short workshops on various renewable energy technologies, check the Kortright Centre, Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association.

General Renewable Energy Associations

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 22 April 2009
Last Reviewed: 22 January 2014