By George Harvey
The largest single rooftop solar array in Vermont was recently installed on a barn at Ayers Brook Goat Dairy in Randolph, owned by Vermont Creamery. Aegis Renewable Energy installed the system, which is capable of generating about 200,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
Aegis Renewable Energy is very diversified, as it uses a variety of technologies, and has customers over a wide geographical area. The firm does a lot of work on solar projects, but they also work with wind and anaerobic digesters. They were in the news recently because they installed the first commercial wind turbine in New York City. This was a double score for Vermont, because the turbine itself was manufactured by Northern Power Systems in Barre.
The story of how Aegis Renewable Energy connected with Vermont Creamery is worth telling. Nils Behn, the owner of Aegis Renewable Energy happened to be driving through Randolph when he noticed a large barn under construction. “I realized at once that it was in a great location and was well oriented, so I decided to make a presentation. It ended up being a great project.”
He does point out that he did some homework before he presented the idea of putting a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the Vermont Creamery barn. Bob Reese, a co-founder of the Vermont Creamery, which owns the barn, was quite ready to listen.
Vermont Creamery has a reputation not only for being run by people with a genuine love of the work they do, but also for being very environmentally aware. That being the case, it is unsurprising that Reese had already been thinking about PVs for the barn roof. “We had always planned on renewable power,” he explained. “The energy tax credit was something we had thought about, and we were aware of the value of the barn’s south-facing roof.” It is an ideal place to put solar PVs. Behn’s design arrived at just the right moment, and the project proceeded rapidly.
Behn is particularly sensitive to the need for preservation of agricultural land, so this was a project in which he could take pride. The barn’s size, 21,000 square feet, made it possible to put up 572 solar panels on the roof, resulting a total capacity of 181 kilowatts. This provides power to the barn and the creamery’s cheese-making facility.
Bob Reese points out that Ayers Brook is a demonstration dairy, and the intention is to provide farmers with a model they can observe in action, so they can develop their farming practices. This is all the more important because farms in Vermont are increasingly investing in renewable power and sustainable production techniques. To date, over fifty farms in Vermont have developed renewable power to cover their costs, develop new income sources, and have their own local power.
Aside from Vermont Creamery and Aegis Renewable Energy, the winners on this project include Green Mountain Power, the people of Vermont, our children, our future, and the rest of everybody. What a good deal!