This article is adapted from an RBI Solar blog and re-posted with permission from the company. See the original here.
They’re a Thanksgiving favorite for many and a despised addition for others: the cranberry. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, cranberries are a common tradition of the modern-day holiday feast.
The Northeast (Massachusetts in particular) is a heartland for cranberry bogs—over 14,000 acres of them. Even if you can’t partake in one of the popular cranberry bog driving tours, these Massachusetts cranberries may grace your table this year thanks to cranberry-product giant Ocean Spray.
But did you know your Thanksgiving cranberries might have gotten a little extra boost from a solar PV system? For one Carver, Massachusetts, family farm, their berries are thriving under an RBI Solar ground mount system.
Cranberries and PV—an Unlikely Love Story
They may seem like a strange pair, but cranberries and ground-mount solar are quite the power couple. Literally.
Shade from the solar modules actually provides an ideal growing environment for the berries underneath. At the same time, the 1.1-MW ground-mount system is harvesting clean energy of its own to power the farm’s operations.
Ground Mount Solar… Over Wetlands?
Cranberries grow on vines much like strawberries. These vines, however, thrive in wetlands with a unique combination of acid peat soil, sand, gravel and a consistent fresh water supply.
So how did we install a ground-mount solar system over wetlands? And without harming the existing cranberries in the bog?
Taking Cues from Mother Nature
The growing season for cranberries spans April through November, requiring the project schedule to sync with nature’s schedule. Because the vines become more rigid and breakable in the later summer months, it was critical to finish the installation earlier in the year when the vines were more flexible. For this reason, post driving was completed early in 2015.
Protective coverings were also placed over the cranberry bog and adjacent moat so the post-driving machines could navigate the landscape without disturbing the vines.
When working with cranberry bogs, flooding is common, as the environment is a wetland. This can make transporting equipment to the project site challenging and potentially hazardous for both crews and cranberries. Overcoming this obstacle meant any equipment needed to be placed away from potential flood zones to avoid damage.
Between protecting the cranberry vines, safely transporting installation equipment over the wetlands, and working around nature’s schedule, there were a lot of components in play to successfully complete the Carver, Massachusetts, ground-mount system. Knowing the conditions of the project site in advance helped us to identify viable solutions.
Farming with Solar
Some have argued that installing solar on usable farmland renders the land useless for agriculture, but solar farms like Carver are proving that going solar doesn’t have to mean giving up growing. In this case, the ground-mount solar installation actually provided dual benefits for both the cranberries and the farm.
The delicacies at your holiday feast have gone on quite a journey to make it to your table! From a solar-powered farm in Massachusetts to kitchens across America, holiday cranberries help ring in the spirit of the season—with a little extra love from the sun.