Insulation, energy reduction, and other efficiency projects offer faster return on investments than energy generation.
These solar panels "net meter" electricity into the electric grid, spinning the meter backwards, which funtions as an offset, or credit, for what Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm uses harvesting, producing & marketing syrups. BSG-Maple Farm is classed as a "co-generator" by our utility. The new legislation is part of the Green Communities Act and requires utility companies to reimburse all net metering into the grid at a retail rate. The system uses Massachusetts made Schott panels and is producing 80% or better of the farm's average annual electricity usage. This installation is compatible with our shift to electric processing with Reverse Osmosis along with supporting all the other farm equipment that uses electricity including sap pumps, vacuum pumps, compressors, syrup pumps, syrup and glass heaters, space heaters, ultraviolet lights, blower motors, heat tapes, and computers.
Maple sap collected from our trees tastes like cold, fresh and sweet water. To reach the rich density of your maple syrup the sap must be concentrated at ratios of 30 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup at the beginning of the harvest and up to 100 to 1 by the end of the harvest. Energy is required to accomplish this process.
The heating oil burned in the sap evaporator is a bio-diesel blend. We do not burn wood to produce maple syrup for several conservation reasons. For example, the vast quantity of wood we would have to use for the harvest would strip too much material out of our forest and damage its plant/animal bio-diversity. Forests properly managed can be carbon neutral or even a carbon sink (carbon negative) as they pull CO2 from the air. Poorly handled, a forest can become a net carbon emitter (carbon positive) through excessive decay and/or over-harvesting. It is a current Forest Guild perspective that forests left in a "wilding" state of self thinning as they develop towards maturity advances carbon negative sequestration best over the long haul.
Farm to Table
Farm-to-table relationships with you, the customer, form an often overlooked, vital conservation practice. Farm direct retail markets eliminate the substantial energy consumption associated with wholesale distribution, transport, storage and marketing. Yet most importantly, your informed interest in family-scale farming forms the bedrock of a culture which conserves and sustains vital relationships between agricultural and urban lifestyles . Without your knowledge of the agriculture our farm has no market for carefully handled syrups. And if customers, or ourselves, do not know how a particular agriculture works we are only able to shop the label on the jar. At markets you may have heard us repeat Wendell Berry's observation that "eating is an agricultural act." BSG-Farm's bottle buyback program offers further cost benefits to both customers and the farm.
Across the Farm
The post & beam farmhouse was built by us with wood & stone harvested from the property and locally. It has some capacity for passive solar heating. The exterior surfaces are highly insulated with recycled chopped cellulose (newsprint) which, during construction, was applied wet, filling all voids, like paper mache.
In 2007 the first solar hot-water system on the farmhouse and then in 2008 a second system was installed at Leighton & Martha McCutchen's home on the farm property.
Solar Photo-Voltaic: In 2008 BSG-Farm was awarded three state and federal grants to install a solar photo-voltaic system at the farm. In March of 2009, a 9.24kw generating system was installed on BSG's Circ.1830's red-barn roof by Berkshire Photovoltaic Services