Sunshine and Blooming Business

by Sherrie Kelly

 

Summer time is ramping up! Our Sustainability Semester saw evidence of this after meeting with several small businesses in the North Country. As days get longer with prolific sunshine, businesses like the Bennett’s Bittersweet Farm and Scott Shipley’s Northern Lights Energy have the ability to ramp up their production and installation. Recently returning from Boston, we were lucky to see Boston’s businesses taking advantage of the sunshine energizing both business and people. After such a long, cold winter in both places, people are eager to get outside and enjoy early summer delights. Around our farm the change of pace is ironically relaxing.  The added hours of light seem to provide ample time to our schedules.  Recently, some of us have been able to run early in the morning while also enjoying warm evenings on the stoop and yard.

 

Thursday morning our community of 11 woke up to the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the farmhouse’s tin roof. None of us would have believed that within the next 3 hours, the clouds would part and we would be soaking up rays while observing Scott Shipley and Jucipeck installing our solar panels. Scott first gave us an overview of solar from environmental, electrical and economical perspectives. It was interesting to see the intersecting relationships these different perspectives have to the sun.

 

Environmentally, solar electricity’s strengths are directly tied to long summer months. Scott describes solar power as ever burning nuclear power. Environmentally it is one of, if not the most renewable resources. We count on the sun daily to light our environments and grow our food. Solar has fewer variables in energy production compared to other systems like wind and hydro. Summer time equates to considerable amount of sun-produced energy.

From the electrician’s perspective, a solar installer can be seen as harnesser of the sun..  As Scott described this he showed us some of the tools he uses such as one that looked like a half-globe and provides numbers suggesting the amount of sun exposure of certain locations. In this profession, Scott has to have both electrician skills and observational skills. Influences from shade and roof exposure are extremely important in reaping the most energy from the sun. Scott is able to ramp up the electrician side of his business with more daylight and warmth allowing him to get outside and onto roofs.

In the summer, solar benefits both the installer and individual in positive ways economically. As Scott is able to get outside with warmer temperatures, roofs are also more accessible without snow or ice cover.  Many of his projects, like our solar panels are installed in the summer keeping Northern Lights and their employees busy.  Since a system providing energy for a whole house doesn’t see a direct return for up to 7-9 years, people will not immediately see the benefits of solar energy. They will, however, be able to see the solar panel’s energy production.  In the summer, many solar installations create more energy than the infrastructure uses allowing the excess power to be put back into the grid and sent to the neighbor’s.  This increases local power supply while giving the solar user credit for times like the winter when more power is used and less sun shines.

Another North Country business, Bittersweet Farm, has been taking advantage of the longer days to get their farm into action.  Talking to Brian and Ann Bennett, owners of Bittersweet farm, we learned about their dedication and love of farming and how the seasons play a big role in this.  Brian talked about how society has lost its concept of food.  For example, we should not be able to eat strawberries in January, yet we do.  Brian promotes a system where we work with the seasons rather than trying to defy them.  So, in weather like this, the Bennett’s can be found eating asparagus and kale with an understanding that fresh strawberries are supposed to come in June.  This is how Mother Nature intended our food system to be.  Eating strawberries in January is not sustainable.  However, it is sustainable to eat strawberries in June when the sun and the temperature are able to support this product.

In addition to taking advantage of the sun to grow their crops, the Bennetts can now be found attending Canton’s weekly farmers’ market.  With warm weather and more sun comes a growing market as the farmers start to return to their yearly stands.  The farmers’ market seems to represent the changing of the seasons and an indication that spring is here to stay.  The event represented a lively scene, drawing people from the community to the park where the farmers market is set up.  The sunshine brings not only appropriate growing weather, but customers itching to get outside after the long winter and purchase some fresh food.

The sun represents an entity with the ability to change and control our behavior. It is a powerful force controlling the lives of every living organism on this planet.  With a dormant sun in the winter months, North Country society joined in the hibernation.  Now that the sun is out to stay, bringing people with it and helping out businesses such as Northern Light Energy and Bittersweet Farm, the town rejoices at the sight of sunshine.  The sun has renewed our energy after the long winter, has brought longer and more pleasant workdays, and has brought businesses customers itching to be outside in the beautiful weather.  As the sustainability semester comes to a close and as we all prepare with renewed spirits for our summer internships, we would like to give a shout out to the sun; thank you for your sunshine!

pic 1 - Spending time in the Bennett's greenhouse where this farm is starting 26 different types of tomatoes.
pic 2 - Playing with the chickens.
pic 3 - A view of fields itching with potential growth.
pic 4 - Some new born butterballs.
pic 5 - Before installation with Northern Lights Energy.
pic 6 - After installation with Northern Lights.
pic 7 - Scott giving us a close up of the panels we installed on the homesteader in residence's house.