Prides Corner Farms Investment in Solar Panels Pays Off
Prides Corner Farms, a wholesale grower in Lebanon, CT, wanted to do more than just think about being a good steward of the land by becoming more sustainable; it wanted to lead with its actions. With a little help from a USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) grant, which encourages renewable energy and energy efficiency investments at farms, the company got the chance to do just that with the installation of 735 solar panels on the roof of its 2-acre loading and shipping dock.
Prides Corner applied for the grant to help offset costs for the project. It worked with Titan Energy New England and Earthlight Solar and Energy Solutions for consulting and construction services. Workers mounted solar panels manufactured by Sunpower Corp. and SolarEdge Single Phase Inverters on the south-facing roof of Nexus Vails greenhouses equipped with roll-up sides and ends for weather protection. On the north-facing roof, they installed clear, corrugated SolarSoft 85 polycarbonate to allow natural light to shine through onto the loading and shipping dock. The roofs also have half Nexus Atrium roof vents to cool down the space on hot summer days.
According to Earthlight’s website, the solar panels were estimated to produce about 296,600 kilowatts annually, or the equivalent of the electricity it takes to power 27 homes for a year. Todd Shorts, Controller at Prides Corner, reports that the solar panels have actually produced more energy than what was projected at the beginning of the project, saying that in 2017 the system generated 300.6 MWh of power. From January to July of 2018, it has generated 195.52 MWh.
“We also receive a Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit from Eversource in the amount of 9.4 cents per KWh of electricity generated that is paid quarterly for 15 years,” Shorts says. “With this credit we are saving almost 40% on our electricity bills from 2016.”
Prides Corner spent close to $1.6 million on the project and the USDA grant covered $187,134 of the costs. In addition to energy savings, the new shipping and loading dock provides protection from the weather and better working conditions for Prides Corner’s 100-plus shipping employees. Since the completion of the installation in December of 2016, Shorts says virtually no maintenance has been required on the solar panels.
In March of 2017, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) attended the ribbon-cutting for the project. The Connecticut Week Agricultural Report quoted Courtney as saying that Connecticut’s burgeoning solar industry is growing, and it was great to see everything come together to make the Prides Corner project a reality.
“This grant was a motivator for us to take action to become even more sustainable,” says Prides Corner Farms Owner Mark Sellew. “It’s a perfect example of the government coming in to help support green projects and renewable energy sources.”