Nate Tassanari and his wife Ania have installed the first operational dual-use PV system in MA. Though these ground mounted arrays will feature the latest breakthroughs in solar technology, they'll also keep alive the tradition of providing from the family farm.
October 20, 2020
MONSON, October 20th, 2020 -- SunBug Solar, a Massachusetts-based solar solutions provider, has completed the construction of a dual-use photovoltaic array in Monson, Massachusetts. The design of the system allows the local landowner to harvest both sun from above and crops from below on farm land that his family has owned for three generations.
The solar array, dubbed “Million Little Sunbeams,” and owned by Monson native Nate Tassinari and his wife Ania, is the first operational dual-use agricultural photovoltaic (PV) system in the area. Generally, solar projects on agricultural land face pushback because traditional solar systems cover the ground in a manner that significantly reduces the amount of available farmland. This project did not face this kind of opposition because a dual-use system doesn’t replace crops, it works with them. “It’s a good compromise between the need for innovation and respecting the land,” said Tassinari. “Plus, it’s my backyard. I want it to be beautiful!”
Just like all operations on the farm, the system must make a profit. Designing Million Little Sunbeams to be the most efficient PV system possible required the use of some advanced technology. The 250 kW system utilizes east-west, single-axis tracking made by Array Technologies. This allows the panels to track the sun as it rises in the east and sets in the west, always positioning the panels for optimal collection of sunlight. In addition, the Million Little Sunbeams project uses bifacial panels from LONGi Solar, which--as the name implies--are two-sided and capture radiation directly from the sun above as well as from the ground and crops below. Crops, such as hay, reflect a significant amount of light back to the underside of the panels; in winter, snow reflects even more light back up to the array.
Finally, power optimizers on each panel mitigate factors such as shading and allow each panel to produce at its maximum level. The optimizers and inverters, made by SolarEdge, enable the power from each panel to be tracked individually. This is in contrast to most ground-based solar arrays, where the output of each panel is limited by the output of other panels in the system.
The land where the solar array is located has been in Tassinari’s family since his Grandmother bought it more than 70 years ago. The neighboring Murphy Dairy Farm, owned and operated by Tassinari’s cousins, utilize the fields to help feed their cattle. The Murphy Farm was established in the 1910s by Tassinari’s Great Grandfather; Thomas F. Murphy. Today the farm grows hay, produces milk, and now hosts two types of honey-producing bees as well as a young orchard with a variety of fruits, exemplifying the diversity of resources this land generates.
Years ago, Tassinari had worked with SunBug Solar to put solar on his home in Boston, and reached out to SunBug to see what could be done with the land in Monson. When SunBug designed a dual-use solar photovoltaic agricultural solution, Tassinari was able to reconcile tradition with technology, and named the project Million Little Sunbeams.
Tassinari will be able to provide power not just to his own home, but through the SMART program, he will also have the opportunity to sell this green power back to the community. Participants save money on their utility bills by purchasing through MLS, and part of the proceeds will be donated to Norcross Wildlife.
The website for Million Little Sunbeams – Millionlittlesunbeams.com – is scheduled to go live in late October. There, interested Monson residents and anyone who has National Grid as their electricity provider will be able to learn more and sign up to purchase energy fresh from the farm.
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