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December 22, 2016 RBI Solar Inc

From Solar Farm to Table: the Journey of a Carver, Massachusetts Cranberry

  • November 15th, 2016
  • Alicia Auhagen

Carver, MA ground mount solar cranberry bog

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, MA 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 Ques 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 are 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.

Finding Solutions

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, MA 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 Carver, MA to kitchens across America, holiday cranberries help ring in the spirit of the season—with a little extra love from the sun.

3 Responses to “From Solar Farm to Table: the Journey of a Carver, Massachusetts Cranberry”

  1. Peter Smith says:

    Hi, This is a great story, but your web site does not back it up with a clear explanation and photos of how the cranberries are able to be harvested with the solar panels on top of them. How high are they above the vines? Are the cranberries wet or dry harvested? Do machines go under the panels? Do workers harvest under the panels. Give us more information. That would give the story much more credibility! Thanks

  2. Frank Smith says:

    Greetings,
    This story is very interesting. A cranberry bog (the first one on Cape Cod) just up the street from my home is an active farm. The farmer has to spread sand on his bog, periodically. Please advise how this would be done if there are solar panels mounted as shown in the picture accompanying this article.
    Regards,
    Frank Smith

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