Plummeting cranberry costs and the nation’s ongoing commerce wars have America’s cranberry business eyeing a doable new savior: solar energy. Some cranberry farmers in Massachusetts, the nation’s second-largest grower after Wisconsin, are proposing to construct solar panels above the bogs they harvest every fall.
It is a novel strategy to mixing renewable vitality know-how with conventional farming that has been researched the world over however not tried earlier than on massive-scale, business crop cultivation, in keeping with solar energy and agricultural business consultants. The fundamental thought is to construct solar arrays high sufficient off the bottom and in additional spaced-out clusters to permit for crops to be safely grown and harvested beneath.
Cranberry farmers hope to shoulder lean instances for his or her trade by gleaning additional income — within the type of long-term land leases with solar builders — whereas nonetheless producing the identical quality berries they’ve for generations. An ongoing, nationwide examine additionally suggests sure crops specifically climates can thrive beneath solar panels, although it is unclear at this level how cranberries will fare.
Michael Wainio, a fourth-technology cranberry farmer, mentioned he has bought off components of his land, began an aspect enterprise harvesting bogs for different growers, and launched a farm stand, deli, and bakery operation in recent times to make ends meet.
Wainio is working with developer NextSun Energy on a challenge calling for roughly 27,000 solar panels over about 60 acres (24 hectares) of lively bogs throughout three farms in Carver, close to Cape Cod. The undertaking would produce about 10 megawatts of power, or roughly sufficient to energy greater than 1,600 houses, in line with NextSun.
The cranberry trade has been dealing for years with the mixed results of crop surplus and weakening demand for considered one of its main merchandise, cranberry juice, mentioned Brian Wick, govt director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association.
The worth of cranberries has plummeted 57% over the past decade, from roughly $58 a barrel (about 100 kilos) in 2008 to $25 in 2018, in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture information. However, Wick says the price to supply the tart crimson berries in Massachusetts is almost $35 a barrel.
The USDA permitted business to dump hundreds of thousands of kilos of fruit in 2017 and 2018 so as to stabilize costs; however, the nation’s ongoing commerce disputes with Europe and China are additional compounding the struggles for a business that beforehand exported about 30% of its product, Wick stated.