Blueberries are big business in Maine, contributing upwards of $250 million to the state economy each year. That’s why a new partnership among blueberry growers, researchers, and the solar industry to harness the power of sun caught our attention.
“The potential for this project to pave the way in providing farmers with alternative income streams while still producing the iconic Maine wild blueberry is exciting, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said Dr. Lily Calderwood, University of Maine Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist.
Currently, 38 U.S. blueberry farms contribute more than $4.7 billion to the economy annually. In Maine, blueberries contribute to $250 million to the economy.
“We’re pleased to be working alongside the University of Maine as well as industry leaders like Navisun and BlueWave Solar on this innovative project that will help promote the growth of the agrivoltaics market as well as support local farmers,” said Chris Ichter, director of business development at CS Energy.
Research indicates that the co-location of solar arrays with crops may reduce water usage by 30% and increase crop production by 70%. With an already large contribution to Maine’s economy, blueberry farmers, as well as others, may benefit greatly from combining crops and solar.
The pilot program outlined what are known as “dual-use challenges.” This study will attempt to understand some of those concerns by using half of the 10-acre project as a control group to study “optimal solar construction techniques.”
“CS Energy, Navisun and BlueWave Solar have all been incredibly engaged and cooperative throughout the whole process, which is crucial, as this is not only the first project of its kind for the University of Maine, but also for the entire state,” said Dr. Lily Calderwood, University of Maine Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist.
The research findings of this program will not only help future developers plan and execute effective dual-use systems, but ultimately will help support local farmers through advancing clean energy and discovering new income streams.
The Maces Pond Agrivoltaics Pilot Project in Rockport, Maine is the result of a collaboration between Bluewave Solar, Navisun LLC, and CS Energy, and the University of Maine. Read more about this partnership, here.