Solar for the Family Farm
Solar for the Family FarmDownload
Solar for the Family Farm — Saratoga Today — Norreida Reyes — May 2016
REXFORD — Farming and sunshine go hand-in-hand, and when your daily life depends on the weather, a little predictability with your electric bill can be a welcome relief. For Kevin Bowman of Bowman Orchards, a family farm located at 141 Sugarhill Road in Rexford, going solar just made sense.
“The farm has been in my family for about 63 years, and my wife and I’ve owned it 12 years,” said Bowman. “We’re a hundred acres of mostly apples and some other tree fruits and small fruits, and we retail about 80 percent of it. We use a lot of electricity. Sometimes our power bills have been $3,000 a month during the peak season.”
With cold storage for roughly 10,000 bushels, refrigeration makes up a large part of the Bowman Orchard electric bill, along with cider processing operations and apple packing facilities. So, Bowman made the decision to join the many farmers choosing to place solar energy systems on their farms over the last decade.
“We’ve found that farmers gravitate toward solar,” said Brian Nowitzki, sales manager of Hudson Solar. “They like the independence, and harvesting their own energy is a good fit. Plus, the system can last upwards of 30 years, and they can see the benefits for themselves and for their heirs. It’s natural, protects the environment, and protects them for the future because they are nervous about where energy prices are going to be ten, twenty years and more in the future. It makes energy costs predictable.”
Bowman Orchards went with both rooftop panels and ground-mounted panels which were installed in August 2012 by Hudson Solar.
“Our system we purchased
outright, so in the end – we’ll own it,” said Bowman. “We’re very happy with it, and in a couple years, it’ll be cash flow positive. And, I think it just gives us one more way of being environmental stewards of the land.”
John Hand of Hand Melon Farm located at 533 Wilbur Avenue in Greenwich installed solar on his family farm this past fall. “I was in the midst of doing a conservation easement on my farm with the Agricultural Stewardship Association of Greenwich, which resulted in a significant sum of money that I received for allowing it to be put on my farm,” said Hand. “That sum of money is subject to capital gains tax. The tax incentives associated with solar panel installations was a nice way to recoup some of that.”
Hand had been interested in solar panel installation anyway, so he worked with some tax advisors and financial planners, and soon it became evident that the tax benefits made sense.
“Then I checked with different solar panel companies, and Hudson Solar seemed to me to be the most professional company for me to deal with,” said Hand.
The company visited the farm, surveyed the site and previous years of electrical consumption and offered a proposal. Hand had two barns that faced close enough to South to be good candidates for rooftop installation.
“It was a neat, tidy installation, very professional,” said Hand. “I do not expect to have a power bill for the life of the system, the next 25 years.”
Hand’s main electrical consumption are the coolers used for fresh picked vegetables, but he also has a small horse boarding operation, so he must power water heaters to keep the horses’ water from freezing in the winter. The farm also has three greenhouses that use a fair amount for ventilation fans and furnaces.
“We own a little over 400 acres,” said Hand. “We grow fruits and vegetables, and have a farm stand on Route 29 across from the Washington County Fairgrounds.” They have plenty of “pick your own” options, with strawberries in June, blueberries in July, and raspberries, tomatoes, peppers and winter squash in September.
“The trickiest part for farmers is that most of the benefits afforded to solar are income tax-related, rather than upfront grants, which can
be tough for some but works well for others,” said Nowitzki. “It really is something worth exploring in depth. Our company has been in business helping farms for 14 years. We know the laws and the available incentives, and the big crux of the matter is that solar incentives aren’t going to last forever.”
Hudson Solar is a New York–based, family-owned business serving upstate New York. The company designs and installs systems for residential, commercial, agriculture and municipal/non-profit organizations. For more information about solar installations and Hudson Solar, call 866-452-7652 or visit www.hudsonsolar.com. For more information about the farms, visit www.BowmanOrchards.com or www.HandMelonFarm.com.