State Agriculture and Energy Officials Highlight Green Energy Farms
Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares toured three farms in Granby and Hadley today to showcase clean, renewable energy being used in local farming
"The use of renewable energy will help bolster the economic viability of local farms by stabilizing energy costs and will also aid in reaching the Commonwealth's clean energy goals," said EEA Secretary Sullivan. "The Patrick-Murray Administration congratulates these and other farmers across the states who are vital partners in the Commonwealth's clean energy future."
Starting this morning at the Red Fire Farm in Granby and continuing on to the Winter Moon and Mapleline farms in Hadley, officials viewed how solar energy is being used to power farm equipment and energy efficient milk and cold storage facilities.
The Red Fire Farm, a certified organic farm owned and operated by Ryan and Sarah Voilland, is the largest Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) operation in the Northeast with 1,400 summer shares and 300 winter shares. In addition to serving two farmers markets in the summer and three in the winter, their farm also provides wholesale produce to restaurants and stores in western Massachusetts and Boston.
Using a $30,000 grant, awarded through DAR's Ag-Energy program in 2010, the farm's owners installed a 24 kilowatt (kW) capacity photovoltaic (PV) system. Featuring 110 PV panels mounted on a new, south-facing free-standing structure, the system will produce over 25,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually - providing up to 35 percent of the farm's annual electric needs.
The DAR's Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) provided technical assistance, including grant writing assistance for the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which resulted in securing an addition grant of $45,000, which was used towards the PV system. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) also provided funding support of $79,200 through the original Commonwealth Solar Program.
Red Fire Farm utilized the buy-local concept in building the solar energy project, working with local clean energy company PV2 in Greenfield for the PV system, and Kurtz, Inc. of Westfield, which designed and built the supporting structure. Lawrence based Solectria supplied inverters for the PV system.
"It's important that farms stay competitive and profitable and the adoption of clean energy practices will allow just that," said DAR Commissioner Soares. "These projects, funding by DAR's assistance, allow long-term storage of produce and dairy products, while reducing the cost to power farm lands."
Protected by the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program, the 50-acre Winter Moon Farm in Hadley is owned and operated by Michael Docter. Twenty acres is rented to the CSA Next Farm Over - which has over 400 members. Winter Moon provides organic produce to local farmers markets as well as wholesalers, including Whole Foods in Hadley and the Northampton Food Co-operative.
Winter Moon recently completed two green energy projects with state and federal assistance. Working with DAR's MFEP program, the farm received technical assistance with a feasibility study to help understand options for providing cold storage in a recently-purchased former tobacco barn, with the intention of extending the "buy local" season. The project consists of a super-insulated, non-mechanical, "free cooling" system to maintain year round temperatures of 34 degrees and near 100 percent humidity. The facility provides winter-long storage of local carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas for sale to local markets. DAR helped fund $10,750 the final project design through its Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP).
Winter Moon also received technical assistance and grant writing assistance to help provide a system to equip its south-facing barn roof with a 156-panel, 34 kW solar PV system. The system generates over 35,000 kWh annually and will provide all the electricity needs of the farm's current operation. The project received funding support from DAR's Ag-Energy program with a grant for $19,896, and $20,000 from the USDA's REAP.
John Kokoski's Mapleline Farm in Hadley is a family owned and operated dairy and milk bottling facility that has 120 acres and leases 60 more with 190 dairy cattle, and has crops consisting of 60 acres of corn, 50 acres of alfalfa and 70 acres of hay. Mapleline had previously installed energy efficient milking equipment to reduce its energy needs, including a free-heater that recovers heat from the refrigeration system and uses it to pre-heat domestic hot water and for radiant floor heating needs of the milking parlor. The farm recently installed a variable speed drive vacuum pump for its milking operation.
Mapleline's latest project included a 9.68 kW roof-mounted PV system on its dairy barn. The system is expected to generate over 10,500 kWh annually, which will be used to offset approximately one-third of the milking operation energy needs. Technical grant writing assistance was provided by MFEP. MassCEC's Commonwealth Solar II Program providedfor $5,000, and DAR's Ag-Energy Grant awarded $25,221.
The project was installed by local clean energy company PV2 of Greenfield.
All projects viewed by Secretary Sullivan and Commissioner Soares today are able to net meter their electricity to the grid and earn revenue through solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), both programs made possible by the Green Communities Act of 2008.DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth's agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish