Greenhouse at Lebanon farm producing power along with plants
Lebanon — Even in the morning’s chilly breezes and barren late winter landscape, Friday’s bright sunshine wasn’t going to waste at Pride’s Corner Farm on Waterman Road.
“We’re getting 25 percent of the farm’s electricity needs from the solar panels,” said Mark Sellew, owner of the 400-acre plant farm. “They’re already hooked up to the grid.”
With local, state and federal lawmakers and other officials on hand, Sellew celebrated the recent installation of 725 solar panels atop a new open-sided greenhouse that will be busy this spring with 100 workers cleaning, tagging and packing 2,200 varieties of nursery plants for shipping to privately owned garden centers, wholesalers and landscape contractors throughout the Northeast.
Before cutting a silky green ribbon to mark the occasion, Sellew credited the partnership of federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, the Connecticut Farm Energy Program and the state Department of Agriculture, with helping make the project happen.
Sitting atop a two-acre concrete pad, the metal-frame greenhouse was built with a $600,000 USDA grant and $1.6 million of the farm’s own funds, Sellew said. The panels will produce 240 kilowatts of electricity, or about 296,600 kilowatts annually, said Eric Virkler, project manager for Earthlight, the Ellington-based company that designed the greenhouse and installed the panels.
While some of the power produced by the panels will be used for lights and conveyor belts inside the greenhouse, most will be sent to a nearby inverter building, where it will be distributed to the rest of the farm, Virkler said.
One of the unique aspects of the design, he said, is that half the roof is covered with polycarbonate sheets that allow light into the structure, while the other half are metal sheets that can support the weight of the panels.
Amanda Fargo-Johnson, program coordinator for the Connecticut Farm Energy Program, said the Pride’s Corner solar project is the second largest renewable energy project supported by the organization, but more are in the works. The energy program, part of the USDA, provided technical assistance for the project.
Among speakers at the brief ceremony was Emily Boushee, spokeswoman for Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. She praised the new greenhouse as a facility that will improve efficiency for workers by providing a shaded space protected from the rain, while also producing renewable power.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the project is one of many examples of how solar energy is growing in Connecticut.
“Connecticut is never going to drill for oil or mine coal, but we have a burgeoning solar industry,” he said.
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