Post Content

Gerry Palano

Gerry Palano

Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources

View Gerry's Complete Bio

Sometimes competing interests can cultivate innovation. With demand for fresh, locally grown and raised foods increasing in recent years for consumer supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers markets, farm stand sales, and local food offerings in our restaurants and supermarkets, there is also an increase in demand to preserve local rich and fertile farm land. At the same time, demand for clean energy systems, such as ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems, means an increased need for local land resources, sometimes those very same rich and fertile lands.

The acknowledgement of these competing interests has led to some creative and cost-effective solutions including one in South Deerfield. Several local design-build PV installation firms, including Berkshire Photovoltaic Services, PV2, Moss Hollow, Cotuit Solar and Nexamp, work with farms and DAR when integrating ground-mounted PV systems on farms. These systems are placed either on non food-producing or marginal soils or on dedicated centralized towers or sloping roof structures that allow land use underneath or can also serve as storage facilities.

061 
UMass Amherst’s Agronomy Lab (the Crop and Animal Research and Education Center Farm in South Deerfield) hopes to further these efforts by demonstrating and studying a different tactic – mounting PV on “traditional” field racking but with columns high enough and spaced apart enough to allow room underneath and adequate sunlight penetration for animal grazing and the raising of crops.

As proposed to DAR’s FY2011 AgEnergy Grant Program by Professor Stephen J. Herbert, Ph.D., Director for the UMass Extension Center for Agriculture, the 70-panel, 16.45 kilowatt PV project's purpose is three-fold. First, it examines and documents the results of implementing ground-mounted solar energy technology on farm land while simultaneously producing a crop. It also is designed to produce an electric power source to offset power usage at the research farm. Finally, the project will demonstrate how this type of PV can be implemented by a farm cost effectively.

Project measurements of ambient light levels and plant matter and economic analyses will provide a meaningful evaluation of plant growth effects and the benefits to farmers. The initial project started with 70 panels, but will expand to 106 panels to include additional innovations.

UMass Amherst raised funding for this effort from a combination of sources, including the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, UMass Extension Center for Agriculture, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and DAR. Two private sector interests are also participating, including Berkshire Management Group Director Michael Lehan and David Marley, manager of Diversified Construction Services, LLC.

We’re thankful for UMass for its efforts to raise awareness about dual-use clean energy projects to preserve precious farm land and lead the way toward our clean energy future.

Written By:

Recent Posts

Dam Ice posted on Mar 12

Dam Ice

You may have noticed many “falling ice” signs around town. Personally, I recently counted five of them on my way to the coffee shop. The icicles and falling ice are actually caused by ice dams, and the Building Science Corporation (BSC) and Massachusetts Department of   …Continue Reading Dam Ice

Fish Need Clean Energy, Too posted on Feb 18

Fish Need Clean Energy, Too

Running a fish farm is an intense operation, one that requires a lot of labor and a large amount of energy. Currently, the McLaughlin Hatchery uses a significant amount of oil to heat its facility. The facility is going to replace its oil furnace with a renewable energy heating system, a new high efficiency wood pellet boiler and pellet storage silo that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 92 percent, save an estimated $11,432 annually, and reduce annual oil use by more than 5,000 gallons.

Wood Pellets are the New Oil for Regional Schools Reducing Fuel Costs posted on Feb 12

Wood Pellets are the New Oil for Regional Schools Reducing Fuel Costs

Did you know that it is possible to heat buildings in the northeast using wood biomass, a renewable energy fuel? With nearly one-third of total energy costs going toward heating our buildings, it is no wonder that Massachusetts school districts are searching for cheaper and   …Continue Reading Wood Pellets are the New Oil for Regional Schools Reducing Fuel Costs