BlueWave Solar, a Boston-based leading solar developer and community solar service provider, announced today the sale of a 4.2 MW, 10 acre agrivoltaic solar project on a wild (lowbush) blueberry farm in Rockport, Maine to Navisun, a solar power producer that owns and operates distributed and small utility-scale solar projects.
Having successfully developed over 130 MW of solar in Massachusetts since 2010, including driving innovation in community solar and dual-use development, BlueWave is excited to be developing the first agrivoltaic dual-use project in Maine, combining solar and agriculture by positioning solar panels above an existing wild blueberry farm field. Under the terms of the acquisition, Navisun will own and operate the completed project which is expected to complete construction in June.
"Achieving the promised benefits of an alternative income source for farmers while maintaining crop production requires thoughtful design," said Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. " We applaud Bluewave for their innovative partnership with the University of Maine to undergo this study so it can serve as an educational resource for wild blueberry growers who might be interested in pursuing co-development of a similar type of solar project in the future."
Conducted in partnership with wild blueberry growers, specialist networks, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Rockport project includes an agricultural research plot to study how wild blueberry cultivation performs within a solar array. The study will showcase best practices in agricultural solar construction and operation and inform a new path forward for Maine's wild blueberry farmers. One of the many project innovations will include manufacturing custom equipment to be used within the rows of solar panels for wild blueberry management. This equipment, funded by BlueWave, will benefit not only the Rockport project, but potentially enable the farming of other, small, hard-to-cultivate wild blueberry fields in the state.
"Sustainable solar development is at the core of everything BlueWave does, but with this project, we aimed to look beyond the traditional definition of dual-use solar to set a new standard for the industry and explore the full potential of what agrivoltaics has to offer for the agricultural sector," said Alan Robertson, Senior Director of Solar Development at BlueWave Solar. "We're thrilled that Navisun and the many partners we're working with share our passion to do right by the land and see the value in the emerging agrivoltaics market."
"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 Lily Calderwood, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist. "We will be closely monitoring soil quality and moisture in addition to crop production throughout the course of our work in hopes of ultimately creating a new playbook for today's wild blueberry farmer."
Dual-use solar provides blueberry farmers with the ability to diversify income as well as the potential to improve yield by providing more favorable growing conditions, in turn, improving the vitality of this important business sector for the state.
"I'm hopeful that this effort will help enhance crop production and our ability to work the land for years to come," said Paul Sweetland, the site's farmer. "Beyond the benefits to the land, I'm happy to be a part of a project that's producing clean energy for those around us."
The agricultural research plot will occupy 5 acres of the total project space and the remaining acreage will be a traditional community solar plot. Navisun will take over operation of the community solar farm which will generate clean energy for the local community and allow residents to achieve savings on their utility bills.
"The Rockport project is an excellent example of how Navisun works to develop long-term, successful partnerships between collaborators like BlueWave and our host communities," said John Malloy, Managing Partner and Co-founder of Navisun. "Local farmers, businesses, and the burgeoning agrivoltaic industry as a whole will see significant benefits from this important sustainable solar project."
"Projects like this are great examples of how research, innovation and partnerships are driving Maine's clean energy economy," said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor's Energy Office. "By complementing existing agricultural practices, especially Maine's iconic wild blueberry industry, this project shows how renewable energy can help support our state's heritage industries, expand our clean energy generation, and create new economic opportunities across Maine."