New Woodchuck Orchard Harvests the Sun

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In the central Vermont farm town of Bridport, a new orchard is taking root.  The 1.5 acre orchard sits about 10 miles from the Woodchuck Cidery in Middlebury, Vermont.  Its crop is electricity, and its food source is the sun.  It turns lovely sunny day rays into fast moving electrons.

Woodchuck is the ‘off-taker’ of that sweet renewable nectar.  The 26 solar trackers are expected to produce 210,000 kWh of electricity a year.  That equates to between 10% and 15% of our power usage.  AllEarth Renewables in Williston, Vermont makes the solar trackers, which through the wonders of GPS, follow the sun throughout day.  They say that tracker technology yields up to 45% more power production than stationary panels.  Sweetness.

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Due to a lack of space in the land surrounding our cidery, the solar array was built on farmland owned by longtime dairy farmer Harold Giard and his wife Shirley.  Many farmers are turning to renewable energy development as a way to diversify how their land is used.  It is becoming a more common sight in Vermont’s working landscape, as generations old farms fight to stay in business amid unstable crop and dairy prices.  Mr. Giard, who supports more diversified agriculture, plans to continue haying the field where our solar power is being harvested.

The construction of the solar orchard took place over the course of a couple weeks in late Febuary and early March.  A project of this size actually goes up pretty fast!  By late March electrons were flowing and so began our journey into solar power.

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Partnering with a local renewable energy company and a local farm has been a great experience.  These kinds of partnerships are what make our home state tick.  It’s a community that works together to achieve common goals.  We couldn’t be more proud.

COW POWER4Speaking of partnerships… We also participate in the Cow Power program run by Green Mountain Power here in Vermont.  It turns cow manure into energy.  We pay a premium on 25% of our power to help fund that program.  Between the two renewable energy sources, we are closing in on 40% renewable energy use.

 

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