Sustainable energy practices in action at Hillandale Farm
At Hillandale, well over half of our production is in high tunnels, which are not insulated and need to be maintained at 60 degrees or higher during frigid later winter and early spring nights. Due to the maritime effect, night conditions can remain very chilly right up until early June, which adds to the thermal load of our farming operation. Essentially, we must maintain temperatures above 60 degrees during the night for almost 4 months.
To do so, we use a 420-gallon wood-fired boiler as a primary source of heat. Hot water is converted into hot air through a water-to-air exchanger inside the greenhouse. When the fire is drawn down by early a.m., on the coldest of nights our backup propane will maintain appropriate temperatures.
In order to maintain a CO2-friendly profile, we strive to source fuel wood from sustainable forestry operations, including those that we manage directly on our farm. Effectively, burning wood that has been culled under a Healthy Forest Management Regime does not lead to carbon leakage, but instead to a carbon-neutral situation.
Several years ago, to further support our energy conservation plan and CO2-friendly profile, we installed a 10KW ground mounted solar array that we anticipate adding to in 2022-2023. We are also in the design stages of a solar hot water storage system that will mitigate the need for fuel wood, which is a labor-intensive component.
Ultimately, we aim to use as many naturally occurring forms of energy as possible, and reduce our need for petroleum-based products. Doing so is the environmentally responsible thing to do, but also makes a significant contribution to our national security from an energy independence standpoint. While the capex can be daunting, it makes tremendous economic sense to institute energy plans like Hillandale's on small and large farms.