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Farmway: A Good Neighbor That's Good to the Environment

 
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Farmway's solar array
Photo credit: Skip Metayer

Source: Jenevra Wetmore, EAN/Middlebury College Internship Program

In 2008 Farmway took a step towards solar, beginning construction of its first solar array. Skip Metayer, Vice President of Farmway, remembers what inspired Farmway to make the change: “Back when solar was rising, we kept hearing about it from our customers.” At the time, switching to solar was not nearly as widespread as it is now. Hearing from customers who were enthusiastic about solar encouraged the store, located in Bradford, VT, to change its approach to energy. However, this was just the beginning of Farmway’s energy journey.

In the Beginning

The construction of the first solar array was completed in January of 2009, when the store began collecting solar power. This system was made up of 308 panels in a nearby field, and was a 58 kW system.  The Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund contributed half the cost– $450,000– as a grant. Farmway funded the other half. 

Growing in Size and Efficiency

As Farmway anticipated expanding the store, they also looked at how they could expand their solar array.  They switched from Gro Solar to Catamount Solar, who installed a new array with a 77 kW capacity. Catamount completed the project in July 2015, connecting it to the older panels to produce a total of 135 kW of power. Catamount's array installation was half the cost of the previous installation and, with the advancement of solar technology in the intervening years, is more efficient, producing more electricity.

Big Savings

After adding on 18,000 square feet, Farmway is still meeting all of its energy needs through solar. This means that Farmway is annually saving $35,000, or the typical cost of utilities per year. They expect to break even on the solar investment in seven or eight years. They have also converted the entire store to LED lights, which use 40% less power.  Efficiency Vermont helped with the installation.

A Good Neighbor

Farmway listened to community members and made changes that reflect Vermont’s growing commitment to renewable energy. In addition to their solar projects, they have also cleaned up two polluted properties that they purchased in the past. One property had between 18,000 and 19,000 gallons of #6 crude oil buried underground in old rail cars. Another contained high amounts of petroleum. They expect that both properties will be considered to be environmentally safe by the end of this year. Farmway has no plans for this land, but spent time and money to make sure to stop pollution.

Farmway is truly committed to stopping pollution, conserving energy and powering all of its electricity use through renewables. As Skip Metayer says, “we just want to be good to our neighborhood…it’s the right thing to do.”