Community Supported Solar: On Sun Harvesting in the Monadnock Region
As I write this in early February, it’s comforting & rewarding to see the sun climb above the tree tops on the horizon from its lowest angle in late December. As the rays get stronger on these cold, clear days, we’re getting back to meaningful power from the meager levels of the last two months. January 26th was the first day my two PV (photovoltaic) systems harvested over 20 kWh of free electricity this year. By March the newer system will be doing that by itself. I like banking the excess electrons I don’t need into my utility account, last year I only had to buy electricity during two months.
On sunny winter days, the sun pours into the house a little earlier each week. Thanks to this passive solar gain, I can turn the furnace off after taking the chill off and as the days get longer the wood stove too, at least until late in the day. Temps on the solar water heater are creeping up, the really cold days hold the thermal collector output well below the ~140°F range seen in the summer. I’ve been sun harvesting for most of my life but not everyone can afford the upfront investment, fortunately community solar is an option.
Locally, Community Supported Solar (CSS) brings together community members, investors and champions to use available financial models to harvest clean, renewable energy. CSS starts with the champions, as supportive parties that put the pieces of the solar project together. For the CSS Farmers project at Sun Moon Farm in Rindge, the Monadnock Sustainability Hub (MSH) and the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD) collaborated to bring affordable clean energy to local farmers. MSH, which is dedicated to strengthening the sustainability and resilience of our region by working collaboratively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach 100% clean energy, provided the technical expertise. The Conservation District, committed to strengthening the farm economy, became the manager of the Community Supported Solar for Farms LLC.
Farmer members who have Eversource as an electric utility benefit by participating in this project. The next step was finding the host site and Sun Moon Farm LLC of Rindge NH, became the landowner where the 90 kW PV array was constructed. They purchased solar shares which means buying discounted solar energy from the Investor owners in the Investor phase. Other participating farmers buy the balance of available solar share(s) and become a member of the Community Supported Solar for Farms LLC. The financial investors, some of whom are local, were arranged by the solar contractor, Revision Energy, that was selected to build the project. The investors pay for and own the PV system for 6 years when the law enables the farmers to buyout and become the owners so they can harvest the sun’s free fuel.
I really love harvesting free fuel, how about you? For more clean energy info, see www.GreenMonadnock.org.
John Kondos is a founding member of Home-Efficiency Resources, the Monadnock Sustainability Hub and the Monadnock chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.
Interested in supporting solar for farms in the Monadnock Region? Cheshire County Conservation District has officially launched a month-long crowdfunding campaign through The Local Crowd Monadnock, to support the CSS program! All proceeds will go directly to making solar more accessible to local farmers!
Your donation today, increases the viability of local farms, advances the sustainability of our region, and in turn, strengthens our local food system! Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated!
Prefer to donate through the mail? Checks can be made payable to "Cheshire County Conservation District" and addressed to 11 Industrial Park Dr., Walpole, NH 03608.
Thank you for helping us support those who grow the food on our plate!