Nov 19, 2018
The sun is a fundamental part of our lives. Farmers especially rely on the sun not only for warmth, light and energy, but also to keep their businesses afloat. However, farmers have been afflicted by a multi-year agricultural downfall that is pushing many over the financial edge. Searching for ways to offset their overhead, they’re turning to other solutions. And what better way to do so than by harnessing the power of the sun? Many farmers looking to expand their income are now recognizing the immense opportunity that solar leasing provides to their businesses without significantly restricting their farming capacity. One farmer who has taken this approach is Bruce Willard, an apple agriculturalist who partnered with Nexamp to build a new solar farm on part of his property.
Settled on land in the back of an active apple orchard in Fitchburg, MA, Fitchburg Solar is a community solar farm that is allowing residents and small businesses to reap the benefits of local clean energy while also providing a stable source of income for Bruce and his family.
The Willard’s 45-acre property that had been passed down for over a century had hit a fork in the road. Bruce and his wife Angela were threatened by the all too common financial struggles that most modern-day farmers face today. Despite the challenges, they were not ready to give up on this family legacy. So, how did a solar array sprout from this apple orchard?
The couple looked at many approaches to reinvigorate their apple orchard. They wanted to preserve as much of their property as they could for wildlife, but most importantly, for their family to enjoy as a piece of their history. The Willards thought about transforming their property into a cattle farm and even contemplated selling their land to business developers for condominium housing opportunities, but all these options would leave them with nothing but a memory of their land that was once an abundance of fruit.
After evaluating all possibilities, Bruce decided that the best alternative for additional use of his land was to lease his property for solar energy. He was intrigued by the exciting and dynamic nature of the solar industry. Nexamp was the first and only company that reached out to Bruce’s inquiry. According to Bruce, the professionalism and flexibility that Nexamp had to offer were what sparked the 20-year partnership.
Nexamp arrived with a plan, engineering a custom solar field for the family farm. From working with the conservation commission to coordinating with the planning board, every box was checked. Putting in a solar farm without affecting the environment satisfied all the Willard’s neighbors’ needs and interests as well. So much so that the Willards decided to invest in another abandoned farm property down the road in Fitchburg where another Nexamp project will begin construction in 2019.
The solar array has brought financial security in the form of recurring lease revenue, in addition to supporting the Willard’s ongoing orchard operations. The farm brings local clean energy savings to over 45 area subscribers alongside its neighboring town, Lunenburg, which receives additional electricity savings generated by the solar farm through a stable, long-term power purchase agreement (PPA).
From harvesting apples (and still harvesting apples), to now harvesting the power of the sun, the Willards are able to boost their income and provide local clean energy to their community all while enjoying their family apple orchard for years to come.
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