Raise a glass of cider – three cheers to solar!

This post was originally published in 2014. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

Orchards come in a variety shapes and sizes, but few knew they also come in the form of a solar system. Outside of Bridport, Vermont, this new style of orchard is harvesting power from the sun for Woodchuck Hard Cider, offsetting between 10-15 percent of their power demands.

Keeping tabs on the sun
Crews prepare the third of 26 AllSun Trackers for installation.

Crews prepare the third of 26 AllSun Trackers for installation.

This orchard’s got moves—moves that follow the sun. The more than 245,000 kWh of energy produced comes from 26 AllSun Trackers from Vermont’s-own All Earth Renewables, producing up to 45 percent higher energy yields than fixed array.

The trackers used 624 solar modules and 26 Sunny Boy 6000-US inverters, one for each AllSun Tracker. Mounting an inverter with each tracker allows AER increased site design flexibility and maximum system efficiency.

Making hay with solar

Open area around Woodchuck’s cider factory is scarce at best, so they looked for neighbors with open land to partner with when they got serious about solar. The site is approximately 10 miles from the cider factory on land owned by a longtime dairy farmer. The 1.5 acres of open dairy pasture used for the solar orchard is a key aspect of land-use diversification that many Vermont farmers are now interested in.

Flat during daytime peak sun, the trackers significantly increase energy yields.

Flat during daytime peak sun, the trackers significantly increase energy yields.

Despite having a 149 kW solar system now sitting on part of the farm, the land will continue to be used for hay, serving dual uses and maximizing its useful capacity.

To learn more about the solar orchard or Woodchuck Hard Cider’s other renewable energy endeavors, visit their blog. Please remember to harvest your energy responsibly.

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