December 1, 2017

Grafton farm, solar firm to research crop-friendly solar

Photo/State House News Service
BlueWave Solar is planning to build solar panels on Knowlton Farms to asses how crops react to the technology.

Knowlton Farms in Grafton and Boston solar energy firm BlueWave Solar are using a $100,000 grant to collaborate on an agricultural solar canopy to evaluate plant and crop growth under various solar tools and operating conditions.

Results from the research funded by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources will then be used in pioneering for sustainable farming practices and agrovoltaics - the co-development of land for agriculture and solar energy.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of June. Data will be collected over a five-year period.

Partners include UMass Amherst Professor Stephen Herbert, Fraunhofer Institute for Sustainable Energy, permaculture design firm Wellesscapes and the New England WIldflower Society.

The farm and BlueWave have worked together since 2014, and the project announced on Wednesday will mark the duo's third solar installation together. The pair in 2014 built a 2.5-megawatt solar array on land owned by the farm and then a 3.7-megawatt project in June 2017.

Together, those projects reduce carbon emissions by more than 5,500 tons each year, BlueWave said.

"Farming is personal for me and my family. Our farm has remained an important part of family life," said farm owner Paul Knowlton. "Using our land to farm both crops and sunlight will allow us to produce locally grown food crops for generations to come."

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