DOAG: SOLAR PROJECT REDUCES FARM’S ENERGY COSTS,


 

 

SOLAR PROJECT REDUCES FARM’S ENERGY COSTS,

IMPROVES CONDITIONS FOR WORKERS

 

March 8, 2017

 

LEBANON - A self-sustaining energy supply and a roof over the heads of workers and product in their shipping area are two of the major improvements being brought to Pride’s Corner Farms wholesale plant operation by the installation of a solar array that recently went online.

 

The 735 solar panels installed on the roofs of open-sided greenhouses built over the shipping area is expected to produce 25-percent of the energy used on the 400-acre farm.

 

The construction also provides shelter for the 100 or so employees who work in the shipping area, and the more than 2,000 varieties of plants they pack and send to stores and contractors from Maine to Virginia and west through Ohio.

 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week to mark the completion of the project through a partnership between the farm and the Connecticut Farm Energy Program, the USDA’s Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area and the state Department of Agriculture.

 

Farm owner Mark Sellew said the company spent about $1.6 million on the project, and received about $600,000 from a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant that encourages renewable energy and energy efficiency investments at farms.

 

The grants also recently funded projects at:

      · Gilberties Herb Garden, Easton: $75,825 for LED lighting and a heating system upgrade expected to                save nearly 172,000 kilowatt hours annually.

· Howling Flats Farm, New Canaan: $28,652 to purchase a 26-kilowatt solar array, which will provide 100 percent of the farm's energy needs.

· Meadow Ridge Farm, Litchfield: $39,509 to purchase a solar array that will offset all of its energy needs.

“Government works and this is an example of that,” Sellew said at the ribbon-cutting, attended by a variety of officials and contractors involved in the project. “We want to be as energy efficient as possible, and I strongly believe that this never would have happened without the help of everyone here.”

 

Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky agreed.

 

“All of these positive things that are happening as far as growing Connecticut farms and Connecticut agriculture wouldn’t be happening without solid partnerships,” he said. “This is a great day.”

 

Reviczky said the Pride’s Corner array is an example of a solar installation that takes advantage of a farm’s agricultural infrastructure, generating electricity that helps offset costs of production and makes the farm more viable.

 

The solar panels covering the approximately 2-acre concrete shipping pad should produce about 296,600 kilowatts annually, or the equivalent of the electricity it takes to power 27 homes for a year.

 

U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, noted that the design and installation of the structure was done by Earthlight Solar & Energy Solutions of Ellington, and consulting was provided by Titan Energy New England of Rocky Hill.

 

“Connecticut is never going to drill for oil or mine coal,” Courtney said. “But we actually have a burgeoning solar industry that is growing, and it’s great to see it all come together to make this happen.”

 

Technical assistance on the project and in applying for the USDA grant was provided by the Connecticut Farm Energy Program, a service of the USDA that is available to help farmers statewide.

 

Since 2010, the program has helped farmers secure nearly $2 million dollars in REAP grants that helped fund $7.6 million in energy efficient and renewable energy projects on Connecticut farms, said program coordinator Amanda Fargo-Johnson.

 

The Pride’s Corner project is the second largest that the program has been involved in.

 

Eric Virkler, project manager for Earthlight, said it took nearly two years to work out the design that incorporated the solar panels into the roofs of the Nexus greenhouses, while still allowing light to pass through to the shipping area.  

 

“This was a very exciting project for us and the final product is one that we are very proud of,” Virkler said. “Pride’s Corner is an example of a company devoted to sustainability and committed to using the latest technology to get there.”