Post Content

Gerry Palano

Gerry Palano

Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources

View Gerry's Complete Bio

Clean Energy Pioneers at Cider Hill Farm

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!

Written By:


As Deputy Director of DOER's Green Communities Division, Lisa helps lead a team devoted to working with Massachusetts cities and towns to realize environmental and cost benefits of municipal energy efficiency and renewable energy. Prior to joining DOER, Lisa worked in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs from 2007 to 2012, first as Press Secretary and then as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Public Affairs. Her previous communications and public relations experience includes both government and the private sector, where, as principal of upWrite Communications, she served clients such as The Trustees of Reservations, The Nature Conservancy, and Partners Health Care/North Shore Medical Center. She began her career as a journalist, covering Beacon Hill for the State House News Service, and later wrote for a variety of other publications including The Boston Globe, Teacher Magazine, Animals Magazine, and The Gulf of Maine Times. The author of two books, Lisa serves on the board of the Saugus River Watershed Council and resides with her family in Melrose.

Recent Posts

Banking on Residential Solar Power posted on Sep 16

Banking on Residential Solar Power

“It’s a house, it’s a car, it’s a … solar panel?” In the coming months, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is hoping a new residential solar loan program will spark that question and interest in renewable power at local lending institutions across the Commonwealth.   …Continue Reading Banking on Residential Solar Power

Building Efficiency Gurus Exchange Ideas on Just About Everything posted on Sep 5

Building Efficiency Gurus Exchange Ideas on Just About Everything

The American Council for Energy Efficient-Economy (ACEEE) selected me to present a paper on the Commonwealth’s Green Communities Program at ACEEE’s Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. It felt like going to college – the seniors all knew each other, while the freshmen were   …Continue Reading Building Efficiency Gurus Exchange Ideas on Just About Everything

Comparing Homes – Energy-Saving Enters the Equation posted on Aug 28

Comparing Homes – Energy-Saving Enters the Equation

Until recently, there was no way to easily figure energy efficiency into a home buying decision. Enter HomeMPG, a Massachusetts energy-saving initiative to pilot an energy performance score (EPS) in residential homes. This “asset” rating that’s analogous to a car’s MPG rating. Behavior is taken out of the equation so that any home’s energy use can be compared to any other home, allowing for an apples-to-apples comparison.