Remelt family’s project combines solar panels and perennials

September 06, 2022

Charlie and Sarah Remelt with son Parker Remelt and future daughter in-law, Allison Bergamo, on their family farm in Henrietta. A portion of the farmland is now leased to Delaware River Solar. The Remelts are growing mums between the solar panels.

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Head down a chunky gravel driveway off East River Road in Henrietta, and behind a white farmhouse the Remelt family farm comes into view.

The fields there produce a variety of crops, Christmas trees, and enough electricity to power roughly 1,000 homes, generated by thousands of solar panels arranged in rows and pointed skyward. This summer, the Remelts tried out a new crop: your everyday chrysanthemums, or mums for short.

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about a farm growing common decorative flowers, but the Remelts aren’t growing them in the traditional way, which would be in a greenhouse or outdoors at a nursery. Instead, they’re raising mums in a row between two banks of solar panels — making agricultural use of idle land that so many farmers who have reserved acreage for lucrative solar farms might have written off as unusable.

“Using farmland to put solar panels on is absolutely a fantastic resource,” said Parker Remelt, whose parents, Charlie and Sarah, own the farm, and who has taken on the cultivation of the mums as a pet project.

“We need more solar panels. We need more clean energy. But we also need to make sure that we’re not robbing our country of the farmland as well,” Parker said. “So we need to make sure that we’re using the land in a more appropriate and resourceful way. That’s what attracted me to this project.”

Many farmers, the Remelts included, have leased land to solar companies as a way to bring in revenue. Farming is often an economically precarious business and the additional, steady income generated through those leases can help keep the enterprises viable and prevent them from selling the land for residential or commercial development.

Delaware River Solar leases one-quarter of the 100 acres the Remelts own and its panels provide clean energy to the farm’s neighbors through a community solar program. The remaining acreage is still actively cultivated.

Nationwide, some solar farms coexist with agricultural activities, but the practice of combining the two is not yet widespread, said Cornell’s Zhang…

 

Read Rochester City News’ complete reporting on Delaware River Solar’s community solar farm installation at the Remelt family farm here.

Learn more about Delaware River Solar here.

Cover Photo: Max Shulte/Rochester City News