Crystal Spring Farm: Harvesting the Sun

Solar Panel Array to be Constructed at Crystal Spring Farm

Solar_panels_with_sheep_in_BelgiumA 76 kilowatt (kW) community solar energy project will be constructed at Crystal Spring Farm this spring to generate electricity both for the farm and other project participants living in Brunswick.  We (the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust), who own the farm property, have consented to Crystal Spring Farm hosting this project, for the farm’s benefit. 

Crystal Spring Farm is collaborating with the Crystal Spring Farm Community Solar Association, a new non-profit corporation formed to manage the project.  The association includes Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, who have leased Crystal Spring Farm from the Land Trust since 2004, and the seven other participating Brunswick families.

The announcement was made today by Angela Twitchell, Executive Director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Steve Weems, President of the newly-formed association.

“This solar array will benefit the long-term agricultural success of Crystal Spring Farm by stabilizing and reducing the farm’s energy costs over a 30-40 year period,” said Seth Kroeck.

Crystal Spring Farm will have rights to 44% of the energy produced by the solar array, which will consist of 286 ground-mounted solar voltaic panels to be located near the entrance to Crystal Spring Farm.

The other seven member families of the Crystal Spring Farm Community Solar Association will divide the rights to the rest of the 100,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity to be generated per year.

The economies of scale to be achieved by the participation of the other members, combined with favorable financing of the farm’s portion of the project from the other members plus additional friends of the farm, ensures the economic viability of the project for Crystal Spring Farm, without any financial contribution from the land trust.

“Those of us in the Community Solar Association are honored to help Crystal Spring Farm realize its energy needs in a more sustainable and cost effective manner,” said Weems. He added:

“This project shows it is possible to combine support for local agriculture with the benefits of the community solar concept, to enable families and businesses who cannot install solar panels at their individual locations to participate in solar energy production through a joint project”.

The project is part of the Solarize Brunswick initiative and is being installed by ReVision Energy, which has made a commitment to support community solar initiatives.

The solar array will occupy a quarter of an acre of Crystal Spring Farm land and be constructed in a way that will allow cultivation or grazing all around it.

Crystal Spring Farm, located on Pleasant Hill Road, was acquired by the Land Trust over a period of years from 1994 through 2008.  Kroeck and Bannon have farmed it for the past dozen years. It is also the site of our Farmers’ Market, which is open from May to November, the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, and the recently-built Labyrinth in the Woods.  In addition, there are six miles of trails at Crystal Spring Farm that are open to the public.

“The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust believes this project can contribute to greater public awareness of the possibilities of solar electricity in mid-coast Maine,” said Brad Babson, President of the Land Trust Board of Directors.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust hopes to learn about the benefits of using solar-generated electricity to support sustainable agriculture and the role of community solar farm projects, and to share what it learns with its members and others in mid-coast Maine.  “At this time, we do not anticipate doing any other projects similar to this one on land owned by the Land Trust,” Babson said. “This 76 kW solar array is a demonstration project.”

BTLT wants to encourage greater understanding of the perils of global climate change and to help residents of the mid-coast understand what we can do to mitigate its effects.  The Land Trust is also sponsoring a lecture series on climate change this year in partnership with the Cathance River Education Alliance, called A Local Look at Climate Change Series.