Growing cranberries and electricity

“The Cranberry Harvest on the Island of    Nantucket  ,’’  by    Eastman Johnson   , 1880.

“The Cranberry Harvest on the Island of Nantucket,’’ by Eastman Johnson, 1880.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Cranberry bogs, which produce Massachusetts’s largest crop by revenue, are obviously open to full sun. And so a new Massachusetts state solar-energy incentive program is getting a lot of attention from financially struggling cranberry farmers anxious to diversify their revenue.

The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Energy Target (SMART) program pays growers a stipend for the electricity, to be sold to utilities, from solar panels put up on their farmland. While some farmers worry that somehow installation of the panels might hurt their crops, others see the plan as a savior in a time of sharply falling prices for cranberries, which are mostly used for juice.

The program requires growers to continue producing food on the same land as the panels to get the stipend. The mission is to simultaneously promote farmland preservation in a mostly urban and suburban state while boosting locally generated renewable energy. Would the small amount of shading from the solar panels hurt the crop? Probably not, but it will probably take a year or two of observation to know for sure.

We ought to follow the general principle that already existing open space, such as parking lots at dead shopping malls and on rooftops, should be used for solar farms, instead of cutting down trees to make space for the panels.

To learn more, please hit this link and this one, with photo of panels on a bog and one farmer’s story.