The Sweet Side of Solar

By Elle O’Casey

Solaflect Suspension PV Tracker

Solaflect Suspension PV Tracker

As we move from another gorgeous Autumn into a more subdued Stick Season, the transition can be stark. Three things help sweeten the transition for me: early evening hikes in the crisp air, spending time with good friends, and maple syrup. For some reason, syrup sweetens up what is sometimes a dark and dreary stick season. Beyond the conventional uses for syrup in baked goods and on pancakes, there’s an even sweeter side to syrup involving solar energy. Sustainable syrup production is on the rise in Vermont. Many maple syrup producers have opted for greater sustainability and decreased pollution, opting for renewable strategies and practices. One way this can be seen is in the increasing the number of sugar houses across the state adopting solar technology.

Some of these solar-powered sugar houses include Silloway Maple in Randolph Center, Branon Family Maple Orchards in Fairfield, Davis Family Maple in Underhill, Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in East Montpelier, Twin Maple Sugarworks in Lincoln, and perhaps the best known, Solar Sweet Maple Farm in Lincoln. Solar Sweet Maple Farm was the nation’s first all-green sugarhouse thanks in part to its rooftop solar panels. Solar Sweet Maple Farm began with the construction of a sugarhouse in 2011 with the goal of achieving a zero net carbon footprint.

The farm’s mission is to “put a green twist on an old Vermont tradition by creating an inviting, environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and self-sustaining sugaring operation.” Today, Solar Sweet Maple Farm is a 17,000 tap operation with an array of solar panels on the roof of the sugarhouse that produces 12,000 kW of power each year. The energy produced equals the power used during the sugaring season with the sugarhouse banking its power to use during peak boiling season. The reverse-osmosis technology which removes 80% of the water before the sap is heated is also solar-powered.

Bringing solar and sugaring together makes sense. When you have a sugarbush, why not install a “solar orchard” to increase sustainable production of one of America’s sweetest commodities? These small-scale installations help Vermonters become more self-sufficient and good stewards of the land, two trademarks of the Green Mountain State.

Vermont is a national leader in solar. The State of Vermont outlined a goal of achieving 90% of Vermont’s total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. Today, according to, Vermont’s solar industry “employs about 1,500 people at 72 companies, and produces $76 million in output, making it the state with the most solar jobs per capita.” In 2014, Vermont also ranked at 22 out of 50 states for total solar capacity nationwide.

This Thursday, Sustainable Woodstock will be talking more about solar energy in Vermont. Join Sustainable Woodstock for Green Drinks, an event featuring a conversation with Solaflect’s founder Bill Bender at Worthy Kitchen. Sustainable Woodstock hosts Green Drinks the third Thursday of every Month. They are free and open to everyone. At Green Drinks, conversation is about building a sustainable community and also helps provide a platform to meet new people, explore new opportunities, and enjoy complimentary eats from local restaurants.

Do Just One Thing:
Join Sustainable Woodstock Thursday, October 20th from 5:00-6:00pm at the Worthy Kitchen to hear more from Solaflect’s founder Bill Bender and his company’s work involving the latest solar and battery technology.

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