Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources
When Karen and Glenn Cook, owners of Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, attended a 2005 workshop on “Small Wind for Farms,” little did they know that here a journey would begin towards launching their very first wind energy project: two grid-tied 10 kW wind turbines. While they were interested in saving money to help secure the future of their business for their next generation, Karen and Glenn also felt compelled to look into this in a serious way to demonstrate their desire to protect our environment.
Since that time, these ‘Lewis and Clarks’ of agricultural clean energy (or, as Karen prefers it, ‘Lois and Clark’) have installed an additional 10 kW wind turbine; a 10 kW ground-mount PV system; two outdoor wood boilers for their greenhouses with some of the wood coming from the pruning and management of their own orchards and forest land; energy efficiency projects including super insulating their apple walk-in cooler, infra-red (IR) grade plastic on all greenhouses, energy efficient lighting throughout their farm store, and high efficiency compressors for their cooler; and a recent 35 kW PV project consisting of two separate arrays – a 10 kW system on the roof of their new chicken coop and a 25 kW stacked ground mount. And, if that weren’t enough, another 25.6 kW stacked PV ground mount is underway and scheduled for completion by the time this is published!
Through the new net metering provisions of the Green Communities Act Governor Patrick promoted and signed into law in 2008, Cider Hill’s 100 kW of installed wind and PV capacity will be generating all of the farm’s annual electrical needs. In fact, the Cooks are fast approaching zero net energy use – if they have not already achieved it. Quite an accomplishment in five years! Congratulations,to say the least!
As importantly, they have shown us these projects can be planned over time and not necessarily completed with one huge financial layout. Cider Hill has studied, planned, and received technical and financial assistance in the form of energy audits, grants and rebates from DAR, the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, USDA and NGRID for these projects. At the same time, the Cook’s have provided a lot of their own investment to balance the labor and economics of keeping the farming operation alive and well.
Cider Hill Farm is a truly diverse farming operation with orchard fruits, berries, vegetables, honey, cider, eggs and much more, including an on-site store. Cider Hill is also a vendor at farmers’ markets and just started its first Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) this year. You should visit them, as DAR and a Spanish Agricultural Delegation recently did – coming away substantially more enthusiastic than we arrived!