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Returns on Renewable Energy Investments

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By Mike Morris and Leif Kindberg

Published: September 2011

Updated: September 2011



16 pages


This publication surveys the costs and risks of investing in wind, solar, biofuel, and other small-scale renewable energy systems. Most small-scale renewable energy projects do not generate cheap energy, and these projects often involve significant complications and risks. Nonetheless, there are many good reasons for farmers to consider a small-scale renewable energy system. Small-scale renewable energy projects can be excellent investments for farms and rural businesses, especially those that are looking for new management options or marketing possibilities.

Table of Contents

It’s Not (Usually) About Cheap Energy
• Three Factors that Make It Tough to Beat Conventional Energy Prices
• How the Time Value of Money Also Works Against You
• Four Factors that Might Work in Your Favor
• Economics for Uncertain Times
Five Reasons to Consider a Small-Scale Renewable Energy Project
• New Management Possibilities
• Hedging Against Energy-Price Increases and Supply Issues
• Environmental Benefits
• Image and Marketing
• Personal Satisfaction
Ballpark Economics and Risks
• Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Systems
• Solar-Powered Water-Pumping Systems
• Solar Water Heating
• Small Wind
• Biodiesel
• Other Projects
Small Farm Energy Projects: Potential Return on Investment
Reference List
Further Resources

Note: Digital downloads are in full color. Printed, mailed copies are only available in black & white.


This page was last updated on: May 7, 2019