Among the fruit trees and berry bushes at Afton Apple Orchard, two new solar arrays have sprouted. One rooftop array installed on a workshop in 2018 is now complemented by a larger array atop a barn recently added to the property. All Energy Solar, a full-service solar energy solution provider, designed and installed the systems to provide clean energy on-site at the family-owned and operated orchard located in Hastings, Minnesota.
Nestled in the Saint Croix River Valley on about 250 acres, Afton Apple produces Minnesota-grown crops beyond apples, including raspberries, pumpkins, and more. The grounds are a seasonal destination for family-friendly activities like pick-your-own produce, a corn maze, a playground, and a petting farm. The retail store sells cider, pies, jams, and other items, in addition to pre-picked fruits and vegetables.
"The Femling Family and staff at Afton Apple Orchard have always embraced sustainability, the concept of giving back, and doing good by the community. Supporting their property with solar not only helps Afton Apple significantly reduce their energy consumption from the grid, but also showcases their environmental commitment to thousands of visitors each year, " said Michael Thalhimer, Director of Business Development at All Energy Solar. "This project was important to the Femlings; we’re thrilled to support the business and its mission to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel energy."
The rural location and agricultural focus make Afton Apple a perfect candidate for solar power's locally sourced electricity. Solar panels from the new 79-kilowatt system will account for over 90,000kWh of Year 1 energy generation, providing most of the electricity needs supporting the orchard’s retail store, machinery, lighting, refrigeration, and outbuildings.
“Interest in our solar project was originally driven by my husband, Frank, who always believed in renewables and looked for ways to make our operation more efficient, to save on costs,” said Cindy Femling, owner of Afton Apple. “Frank's legacy was to set up the orchard for success for our kids, and completing this solar project has been a big part of that effort.”
“Our goal is to set up the property for success when the next generation of our family takes over the business in the future. One of the biggest costs we face is energy,” continued Femling. “Solar power is renewable, reliable, and local, and we believe the cost savings over time will help keep the orchard's operating costs lowered for decades to come.”
The solar installation supports Afton Apple’s commitment to minimizing the orchard’s environmental footprint while growing high-quality produce to keep the farm economically viable. The 25-year projected environmental benefits equate to over 1,500 tons of CO2 offset, which is equivalent to carbon sequestered by over 26,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.
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