We are officially running on solar power at Valley Flora! It's been a long-awaited project - a decade-long dream - and now we are not only making our own power to run the walk-in cooler, the freezers, the lights, the greenhouse fans, and the irrigation pump (all of our core infrastructure), but we were actually sending power back to the grid as well! What a feeling to harness all that hot sun that's usually beating down on the barn roof making us sweaty on a packout day and to turn it into electricity instead: the hum of our walk-in, the whir of the greenhouse fans, the cycling of the pump, all thanks to the generosity of the sun.
It took ten years to get here, but this past 18 months the dream started to become a reality thanks to a combination of factors. Solar technology has gotten twice as affordable and twice as efficient in the past decade. In winter of 2018 a farmer friend and tireless renewable energy advocate put us in touch with a Spark Northwest, a non-profit in Seattle that provides grant-writing assistance to small businesses for renewable energy projects. With their help we applied for a federal and a state grant and were fortunate to receive both. We also received a Wild Rivers Coast Alliance small grant and a number of generous individual donations from CSA members and friends of the farm. All together these funds got us close enough to the project budget that we were able to give Sol Coast the green light to do the installation at the end of May and flip the switch on the inverters in early June!
I want to express my deepest thanks to everyone who chipped in to make this happen at the farm, and to all of you who have cheered and voted for the project along the way. As farmers we are feeling the unnerving effects of climate change directly (more extreme weather events, hotter and drier summers) and we want to be a pro-active part of the solution. Solar feels like a huge step in the right direction and we couldn't have done it without the support of Oregon Department of Energy, USDA, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, Sol Coast, Kyle Electric, Coos Curry Electric Co-op and so many of you! Thank you for being part of positive change!