Solar Industry News

Monadnock Region Community Supported Solar

Lettuce beds at Picadilly Farm (photo credit: Picadilly Farm)

Monadnock Community Steps In to Help Farms Go Solar

The combined effects of climate change, high operating costs, and the pandemic have made it harder than ever for small New England farms to thrive. When the Monadnock Sustainability Hub started a community solar program with the Monadnock Food Co-Op , the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD) saw an opportunity to bring the model to local farms. It's unique - the first project of this type in New Hampshire - and CCCD knew it would be difficult, but they are hoping to provide a framework that other areas in the state can replicate. CCCD did some outreach among local farms and found a definite interest in solar and a need to lower utility bills. And so the Monadnock Region Community Supported Solar Project was born.

Sun Moon Farm

Craig, of Sun Moon Farm, shows his child the new solar array.

Sun Moon Farm , a vegetable and flower farm in Rindge, generously volunteered to host the solar array on their property, and worked closely with ReVision Energy to site it. The array, completed in 2020, produces over 110,000 kWh of solar energy a year. Of the original shares available, half have already been claimed by Sun Moon Farm as well as other local Monadnock farms like Picadilly Farm , which grows organic produce.

"Community Supported Solar for Farms is an innovative and forward-thinking project," said Jenny and Bruce Wooster. "This will allow Picadilly Farm, and other farms in the Monadnock region, to participate in both the production and the use of renewable solar energy, while breaking down the cost barriers. With an entry cost that is significantly less than constructing our own array, this program will bring our farm crew house onto 100% renewable solar electricity use. We're excited to be a partner in this. It's a great time to go solar!"

The member farms are working together on outreach, spreading the word and recruiting other nearby farms to join. The entire Monadnock food system is already very interconnected, so a shared solar array was a natural fit.

"It's great to see farmers coming together to make this happen," said CCCD District Manager Amanda Littleton, "We want more renewable energy and less of a negative impact on the environment, but farms are also challenged to keep their businesses going so this project will help stabilize and lower energy costs."

Financed with a Power Purchase Agreement, these farms will form an LLC and buy the array from the investor group at a discounted rate after 5 years. CCCD is currently crowdfunding as well to further reduce the buy-in for local farms and remove as many financial barriers as possible. 100% of the funds raised by this campaign will go to lowering the share costs for farmers (for existing shares as well as any new farms that buy in).

"It's been really great to see some of the community support for this," said Amanda. "Decreasing those input costs for farmers, it just felt like a win-win. It's a way for the community to engage with these farms in a new way, and support more renewables. There's been an outpouring of community support to see this project move forward; it's inspiring, seeing everyone want to help the farms and food system in our region."

While members of the Monadnock Region CSS must be in the Eversource utility territory, CCCD hopes that this framework can be used as a model for other farms and organizations around the state.

Sun Moon

"This could be a real opportunity for agricultural producers in the state, if we can harness this model and use it to benefit farms' profitability. We hope to inspire other communities to take this on, and we are happy to help anyone who is interested in getting this started in their region," says Amanda.

Want to join in and help local farmers?