ROCKPORT – On Nov. 10, representatives of two independent solar power companies and a Rockport landowner assembled on a blueberry field, up the hill from Maces Pond in West Rockport. It was a bright afternoon, perfect for pulling the switch on a new solar energy project that is expected to generate 4.2 MW of renewable power.
In addition to cutting the ribbon on another solar array venture in the Midcoast, the occasion marked the collaboration of traditional Maine agriculture with a new energy industry.
A section of this 10-acre solar array venture will be dedicated to studying how wild blueberry cultivation performs in conjunction with a solar array. Researchers, which will include the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, intend to identify best practices in agrivoltaic construction and operation.
In this case, the West Rockport solar project is owned and developed by two Massachusetts companies, but it sits on an actively harvested wild blueberry field owned by David Dickey, of Camden.
The solar panels are positioned above the existing blueberry farm, according to BlueWave, the Boston-based solar and energy storage developer that is leading the project.
Navisun, a Hingham, Massachusetts-based solar company that owns and operates small utility-scale solar projects ranging from 1 to 30 megawatts, will manage the solar array. Solar credits generated at the site will be applied to Maine businesses, according to the news release.
“I am excited to be working with BlueWave and partners on a novel approach to agriculture,” said Dickey, who has opened the field to agrivoltaics. “Adding solar over the existing wild blueberries is a great opportunity to try something new to help the planet move towards a cleaner energy grid, all while helping to provide additional income that keeps my local business growing.”
“The completion of this project marks an exciting moment for BlueWave,” said the company’s managing director, Alan Robertson. “Developing projects that not only produce clean energy, but also do right by the land is central to our mission and this first-of-its-kind project in Maine has the potential to provide further education around agrivoltaic practices in addition to providing long-term vitality for the farm.”
"With investments in renewable energy, particularly solar, happening across Maine, this unique project is a prime example of how public-private research partnerships are helping advance our clean energy sector," said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor's Energy Office, in a news release. "By complementing existing agricultural practices, especially Maine's iconic wild blueberry industry, this project shows how renewable energy can help support the state's heritage industries, expand clean energy generation, and create new economic opportunities across Maine."
“The rising costs of fossil fuels continues to hurt our environment, our climate and our people, and is why generating more clean energy is crucial to protect our state for future generations,” said Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation the Future and co-chair of the Maine Climate Council, in the release. “This project will contribute not only important renewable energy to help reduce Maine’s reliance on imported fossil fuels, but will serve as model for how clean energy can co-exist with Maine’s natural and working lands to benefit our communities and fight climate change.”