In January, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announced an Agricultural Energy Grant Program Request for Response. We interviewed three Solar Companies, selecting one to work with us to develop a plan for energy self-sufficiency. We submitting our proposal at the end of February 2020, requesting $50,000 to offset half the costs of the project. The funds for the Farm Energy Grant Awards were provided by the Massachusetts State Legislature. In April, we learned that our proposal would be fully funded in the amount of $50,000.
We signed a contract with the Solar Company in April. The framework for the Solar Array was constructed in July and the electrical connection to the inverter were completed in September. In November, the solar panels were installed, and we hope to be connected to the grid in the next few weeks. The 30.02 kW Solar Array is located in abandoned farm field on protected land to the far right of the property (facing River Street).
The three phase ground mount solar unit will offset of existing electrical usage and also allow for expansion of electricity usage for future well, farm building, electric delivery vehicle or increased heat production for greenhouse.
When an Agricultural Preservation Restriction was placed on Tranquil Lake Nursery in 2013, the property was divided into two distinctive lots. The two acres of land with the house were not included in the restriction. The remaining twenty acres were separated out and put into protection, forever to be used for agricultural purposes.
As we plan for the long term agricultural use of this land, we want to make the farmland as sustainable as possible, making it easier for other farmers and young farmers to utilize the land. Currently the greenhouse, growing fields, irrigation, farm pond, river, some of the container production area, some of the gardens and the parking lot are on the protected land. The house, retail sales area, most of the gardens, glacial kettle hole pond, driveway and front field used for surplus parking are on the house lot. In addition, the only well is on the house lot, as are indoors spaces for shipping, offices, and employee spaces.
There are three electrical meters, two are on the farmland and supply the irrigation and greenhouse needs. The third meter is on the house with divided use for residential and farm use, providing the energy for the well, shipping, As we move forward our biggest needs are for a new well on the protected farmland and a farm building on the protected farmland, for storage of equipment, shipping, harvesting and employees spaces for working, meeting and meals. This will separate the farm functions from the house lot. In order to achieve these goals, we also needed to separate the electrical usage, and most importantly have ample electric to fuel the new well and building. The solar project benefits the farm by providing electrical power to meet current and future farm needs, including a well and farm building on the APR land. It will also benefit the farm by providing this power on the protected APR farmland separate from the house lot and available to any future farmer. In addition, it will lower farm cost, making it possible for current and future farmers to be more profitable.