Pinehold Gardens

Oak Creek, Wisconsin

Solar Electric
$4,936 and $8,310 Grants
2004 and 2006

Pinehold Gardens - solar electricPinehold Gardens, a community-supported farm in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, has become a solar pioneer in southeastern Wisconsin.

With the help of grants from REAP, Sandy Raduenz and David Kozlowski, the farm’s owners, recently added their second photovoltaic solar system to their 21-acre fruit and vegetable farm.

When they were considering their first project, a 2.5 kilowatt dual-axis tracker installed in May of 2005, Raduenz joked that they would “probably” be alive to see their expected 19-year payback.

However, through multiple funding sources, including a $4,940 grant from the REAP program, an overachieving system, and rising energy costs, they are recovering their investment faster than expected.

The solar tracker, which was supposed to generate 4,100 kwh/year has bested expectations, averaging 4,400 kwh/year over its fi rst three years of operation.

This performance bolstered the pair’s confidence in solar technology as an answer to electricity costs. They decided to add a second system, which would allow them to meet 100% of the farm’s electrical needs including irrigation, refrigeration, and heating their chicken house.

The newer system, added in October 2008, is 2.7 kilowatts and is expected to produce 3,438 kWh per year. Again, they were able to make the investment with the help of an $8,310 REAP grant.

Kozlowski said the benefits go beyond reducing the farm’s operating costs and increasing profitability. “The system, he said, “functions as a sort of marketing tool for us too.”

Customers are already drawn to Pinehold Gardens because of the sustainable way in which they grow food, but with the solar panels on-site, “people see it as a double bonus.”

Raduenz said that her customers like the panels and that the farm has gotten more attention because of them. “We’ve been on the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s solar tour for three or four years . . . it’s a really great thing to do.”