CARVER – Several cranberry growers in Carver are turning to the sun to do more than shine down on their crops.
The news isn’t positive for all cranberry growers, those who are struggling to survive in the cranberry industry.
That’s why they are turning to solar and a company like NextSun Energy, represented at Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting by owner Adam Schumaker and Sarah Stearns, an associate at Beals and Thomas.
Cranberry grower Eric Weston said the oversupply of cranberries on the market puts growers in Massachusetts at a greater competitive disadvantage than other regions because it has more small growers.
He said solar over bogs can’t work for all growers everywhere, but he’s embracing solar because he believes it will make his business more stable financially. The bogs have to be farmed as part of the agreement
“I look at it like we’re farming the sun, and we’re also getting product,” he said. “We’re not tearing down anything, and we’re not removing any vegetation. It’s a plus. We’re taking something we do, and we’re adding something else that I think has a nice environmental impact.”
Roger Shores has farmed cranberries since he was 8. His great uncle was one of the founders of Ocean Spray. He said a 2 percent increase in sales sounds good until you consider the 4 to 8 percent increase in the volume of fruit.
He said that’s in the area of 100 million pounds of cranberries that won’t be sold due to supply and demand, and it’s the farmers that will be hit with it. He said he has sacrificed financially and wouldn’t leave the business as it is to his grandchildren.
“It’s like giving them a piece of paper that says IOU,” he said.
He said he cares about Carver and wants the local growers to be able to continue to exist. He said it’s a way of life that’s being taken away.
The board unanimously approved a special permit with conditions from multiple applicants for one of two solar projects over operating cranberry bogs after meetings, site walks, visits with neighbors and even a helicopter ride. The project on Tremont Street was approved.
Schumaker also agreed to relocate some of the solar panels on Tremont Street to accommodate a 90-foot-wide, 800-foot-long flight path through the bogs for safety’s sake in case of an engine failure or other hazard at the request of a local helicopter company.
The board wasn’t ready to vote on the Rochester Road project, where there are more residents who are abutters, until Oct. 22 after a final review by the town’s consultant, but the hearing was closed by a vote of 4-1.
Planning Board member Jim Hoffman said he thought agreements for solar over cranberry bogs were a long shot, and he’s happy if everyone can work together to reach resolution so the growers can continue to operate their business.
“It makes you feel good when things work out right,” Planning Board Chairman Bruce Maki said.
Follow Kathryn Gallerani on Twitter @kgallreporter.