Huge 'solar farm' helps grow tomatoes in NJ

October 12, 2010 3:38:24 PM PDT
New Jersey is second to only California in its amount of solar electricity and, on Tuesday, Santa Sweets - one of the largest tomato growers in the country - announced the completion of its 10-acre solar panel farm in Cedarville, Cumberland County.

Santa Sweets' solar system consists of 11,000 photovoltaic solar panels. It is the largest of two sites, which produces enough energy to support the company's tomato packing facility.

"We're producing all the power for this entire 200,000 square foot facility here, including refrigeration," said J.M. Procacci, the COO of Santa Sweets.

The system produces direct current electricity. When the sunlight hits the solar modules, the current passes through inverters and is converted into alternating current electricity.

"The technology is getting better as time goes on, and these panels are becoming more efficient," said Kevin Delaney, the director of corporate sustainability.

If the solar panels produce more energy than needed, the excess power flows back to the utility grid where it's reusable.

"Seven years ago we looked at this project. But now it's more feasible with the technology that's available," said Delaney.

The Assistant Secretary of New Jersey's Department of Agriculture, Arthury Murray, says it's also a wonderful opportunity for farmers to cut costs and compete in national and international marketing.

"With the locally grown movement coming along and everybody looking locally grown produce, why not get energy from a locally grown source, right above our heads?" Murray said.

It's also an example of how farmers can work to reduce their carbon footprint.

"We create the healthiest foods for our community. It's time we create a healthy environment for our children in the future," said Procacci.

Santa Sweets is hoping to expand its solar project to its other packing facilities across the country.


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