Solar Power Reduces Farm Energy Costs

Kurt LawtonConservation, Equipment, Farmers, Financing, sustainability

Energy costs can be huge on some farms–from dairies to fruits and vegetables. In this age of greater precision to find ways to cut costs, an orchard in Massachusetts pursued grants to install solar panels to reduce its $80,000 annual electrical costs, according to a piece in The Telegram in Worcester.

Carlson Orchard, selling apples since 1938, has installed 1,050 solar panels, thanks to a combination of federal and state grants and private financing.

David Weiher, a friend of the Carlson family, said the idea of installing solar panels at the farm had been discussed many times, but the demands of the harvest and running the farm always took precedence over developing something new. He said it wasn’t until Symantha Gates, founded EC3 Sustainability Consulting in Amherst, N.H., and was looking for a green project to do, that idea became reality.

Ms. Gates said she is not a farmer and is not really good at growing things, but she understands what goes on behind the scenes at Carlson Orchards, including a heavy reliance on energy for its cooling barns to store fruit in. She brought together $1.25 million in financing for the project from private, federal and state sources, including $900,000 in grants.

Among the grants received was a $565,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a $30,000 grant from the state Department of Agricultural Resources and $287,638 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Granted, this is a big application, but Carlson says this solar installation should pay for itself in five years.