We’re excited to share some news about our energy program here at the farm. Along with our 50 kilowatt-hour windmill — which, so far, has created enough electricity to offset the carbon emissions of more than 100 cars on the road for a year — we’re now generating even more power from new solar panels on the roofs of the farmstand and machine shop buildings.  

“We are an energy-positive farm,” said Simon Athearn, explaining that Morning Glory now sends a small amount of excess electricity back to the local power grid, instead of drawing energy from it.

Our solar project cost $115,000 all told, with state-of-the-art photovoltaic panels using microinverters to convert direct current into alternating current. “The energy field created is minuscule compared to old-style inverters, which makes them safer to live and work around,” Simon said.

In addition to eliminating the farm’s energy bill, selling a bit of surplus power and most importantly, keeping carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, we also earn money for the electricity we generate by selling Renewable Energy Certificates.

In their first year, the new photovoltaic panels are expected to produce $8,675 worth of electricity and earn $9,404 in renewable energy certificates. Over the next 20 years, Simon estimates, the cumulative benefit to the farm from both revenues will be more than $355,000.

The solar panels are warranted for 30 years, with no maintenance expected. By comparison, our wind turbine needs about $5,000 worth of normal maintenance every year and produces about $35,000 in annual income from electricity savings and renewable energy credits.

Simon chose Solar Invictus of Vineyard Haven to design and install the 96-panel, 33,120-watt system earlier this year. This company, which also installed the solar array at the Agricultural Society in West Tisbury, is “very savvy making sure that you connect all the grants,” he said. “They also make all the phone calls and do all the work with Eversource — getting the power company to agree can be an arduous process.”

The solar project was funded largely by two major grants from the state and federal governments. There are also resources available for households and businesses seeking to save money and reduce their environmental footprints, Simon added.

Cape Light Compact offers business-level engineering audits,” he said. “They audited Morning Glory Farm two years ago and went through the entire building to maximize energy efficiency.

“They outfitted us with new light bulbs, some refrigeration upgrades, new switches — and it was all free.”

The same no-cost service is available to households, Simon said. “They will come to your house and do this assessment and give you rebates and incentives to replace your refrigerator, insulation and so on.”

You might even find yourself going solar, too.