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Solar project changes hands in Rockport

Major project of 11,000 panels combines with blueberry farming operation
Mar 29, 2021

Rockport — BlueWave Solar, a Boston-based solar developer, announced March 25 the sale of a 4.2 MW, 10-acre agrivoltaic solar project on a blueberry farm in Rockport to Navisun, a solar power producer that owns and operates distributed and small utility-scale solar projects.

BlueWave said in the announcement on its website that it is excited to be developing the agrivoltaic dual-use project in Maine, combining solar and agriculture by positioning solar panels above an existing wild blueberry field.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Navisun will own and operate the completed project, which is expected to complete construction in June.

The Rockport Planning Board approved the project in June 2020 at 510 Rockland St. near Maces Pond. At the time it was noted the project would have nearly 11,000 solar panel modules. It came back to the board in December and gained approval for minor adjustments to the plan.

"We applaud Bluewave for their innovative partnership with the University of Maine to undergo this study so it can serve as an educational resource for wild blueberry growers who might be interested in pursuing co-development of a similar type of solar project in the future,” Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal is quoted as saying in the announcement.

Conducted in partnership with wild blueberry growers, specialist networks, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Rockport project includes an agricultural research plot to study how wild blueberry cultivation performs within a solar array.

“One of the many project innovations will include manufacturing custom equipment to be used within the rows of solar panels for wild blueberry management,” the announcement said. “This equipment… will benefit not only the Rockport project, but potentially enable the farming of other, small, hard-to-cultivate wild blueberry fields in the state.”

"The potential for this project to pave the way in providing farmers with alternative income streams while still producing the iconic Maine wild blueberry is exciting and we're thrilled to be a part of it," said Lily Calderwood, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Wild Blueberry Specialist. "We will be closely monitoring soil quality and moisture in addition to crop production throughout the course of our work in hopes of ultimately creating a new playbook for today's wild blueberry farmer."

Dual-use solar provides blueberry farmers with the ability to diversify income.

"I'm hopeful that this effort will help enhance crop production and our ability to work the land for years to come," said Paul Sweetland, the site's farmer. "Beyond the benefits to the land, I'm happy to be a part of a project that's producing clean energy for those around us."

The agricultural research plot will occupy 5 acres of the total project space and the remaining acreage will be a traditional community solar plot. Navisun will take over operation of the community solar farm, which, according to the announcement, will generate clean energy for the local community and allow residents to achieve savings on their utility bills.

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