Rockport – BlueWave Solar, a Boston-based solar developer, announced on March 25 the sale of a 4.2 MW agrivoltaic solar project on a blueberry farm in Rockport to Navisun, a solar power producer that owns and operates utility-scale distributed and small solar power projects.
BlueWave said in the announcement on its website that it is excited to develop the agrivoltaic dual-use project in Maine, which will combine solar and agriculture by positioning solar panels over an existing wild blueberry field.
As part of the acquisition, Navisun will own and operate the completed project, construction of which is expected to be completed in June.
The Rockport Planning Board approved the project in June 2020 at 510 Rockland St. near Maces Pond. It was known at the time that the project would have nearly 11,000 solar panels. It returned to the board in December and received approval to make minor adjustments to the plan.
“We welcome Bluewave for their innovative partnership with the University of Maine to conduct this study so that it can serve as an educational resource for wild blueberry growers who may be interested in collaborating on a similar type of solar project in the future.” Amanda Beal, commissioner for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in Maine, is quoted in the announcement.
The Rockport project was carried out in collaboration with wild blueberry growers, specialized networks and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and comprises an agricultural research project that examines how wild blueberry cultivation behaves in a solar field.
“One of the many project innovations will include the manufacture of custom devices to be used in the ranks of the solar panels for wild blueberry management,” the announcement said. “This equipment … will not only benefit the Rockport Project, it will potentially allow other small, difficult-to-cultivate wild blueberry fields in the state to be managed.”
“The potential of this project to provide farmers with alternative sources of income while producing Maine's legendary wild blueberry is exciting and we are excited to be a part of it,” said Lily Calderwood, University of Maine's Wild Cooperative Extension Blueberry Specialist. “In the course of our work, we will closely monitor the quality and moisture of the soil in addition to the crop production, in the hope of ultimately creating a new playbook for today's wild blueberry farmer.”
Dual-use solar provides blueberry growers with an opportunity to diversify income.
“I am confident these efforts will help improve crop production and our ability to work the land for years to come,” said Paul Sweetland, the site's farmer. “Aside from the benefits to the country, I'm happy to be part of a project that will generate clean energy for the people around us.”
The agricultural research lot will occupy 5 acres of the total project area and the remaining area will be traditional solar communal lot. Navisun will run the community solar park, which it announced will generate clean energy for the local community and enable residents to save on their electricity bills.