From One Farm to Another : Cowls’ Solar Opportunity
WD Cowls farms more acres than any other agricultural producer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One doesn’t farm for nearly 300 years without making sure resources are managed with an eye toward the future.
In that spirit, sustainable energy is critically important to our family business. We are committed to doing our part to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels while improving Massachusetts’ economy. We have an opportunity to support the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals by bringing solar energy production to our land.
Solar Case Study: Shutesbury
In Shutesbury, Cowls leases 30 acres of land to Lodestar Energy to produce approximately 5.6 megawatts of solar power. While 30 acres have been converted to solar farming, Cowls has conserved 3,486 acres of land in close proximity to this project. The power generated by this solar installation is one and a half times as much power as utilized by the entire town and its residents on an annual basis. The PILOT funds fuel the rural Town of Shutesbury, where there is little other non-residential tax potential in town.
Solar Case Study: Amherst
In North Amherst’s Mill District, Cowls hosts 390 solar panels on Cowls Building Supply’s warehouse, generating 120kw of power and producing more power than the store utilizes.
Also, in North Amherst, Cowls leases 30 acres of land to Lodestar Energy to produce 6 megawatts of power, covering the power needs of 13.7% households in this bustling college town.
Solar Case Study: Belchertown
Cowls aspires to host solar farms on up to 20% of 1,339 acres owned in Belchertown. These solar installations would be built on prime high demand residential development sites, relieving the town and abutters of housing subdivisions being built here for the next 20 to 30 years. The community will be financially richer from hosting solar arrays, gaining significant tax income from solar without any associated expenses on schools, senior services, or emergency response. Residents’ utility bills will be reduced by 10% for each permitted project.
Beyond producing savings on residents’ utility bills over the long term, as well as generating significant in lieu of tax (PILOT) payments to the town’s coffers, solar farms are more beneficial than trees for CO2 sequestration. On average, one acre of forest sequesters 30,340 pounds of CO2 annually. A solar farm offsets 256,230 pounds per year. For nine generations, Cowls’ land company expertise has been in timberland management and conservation. Today, we are extending our conservation efforts to air quality and energy independence.
Note: The proposed zoning change by the petitioners in Belchertown is against Massachusetts General Law (c. 40A, s.3), which states that “No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate solar energy systems except where necessary to protect public health, safety, or welfare.” The Planning Board in Belchertown already has the authority to regulate solar development through the current bylaw and special permit process and ensure the protection of public health, safety, or welfare of residents.
Sustainability for Generations Next
At Cowls, we manage our family business like our Tree Farms–for sustainability, growing what our community needs today, without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to do the same. Through sustainable forest management; large scale permanent land conservation projects; community building; and green energy investments, our resources are managed today to achieve a more sustainable tomorrow.
We understand there’s a critical balance between conservation and development. One enables the other. Solar farms improve surrounding forests’ and rural communities’ viability.
For more information about sustainability and solar in forests please see