SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

October 11, 2012

Solar, Wind power grow crops

  “I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources”

BARRY ADLER,

 owner of RainFresh Harvests

FRED SQUILLANTE DISPATCH PHOTOS This greenhouse at RainFresh Harvests near Plain City has solar panels on the roof. Batteries inside it store the power.

Solar, wind power used to grow greenhouse crops

By Mark Williams THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

By growing food in environmentally sensitive ways with electricity and heat from the wind and sun, Barry Adler combines two things he loves into one business: horticulture and renewable energy.

“It’s a good feeling to know I’m not polluting in the process of using energy,” said Adler, owner of Rain-Fresh Harvests, which grows herbs, greens and other vegetables for local restaurants and stores.

RainFresh, located near Plain City, is one of more than 170 sites on this year’s weeklong Green Energy Ohio Tour that wraps up today. The tour features businesses, homes, schools, other buildings and parks that have incorporated solar panels, wind turbines and other devices that reduce energy consumption.

“I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources,” said Adler.  He showed about 50 visitors yesterday how a wind turbine and solar panels create electricity and heat to run his two greenhouses even when power is out elsewhere.

A windmill generates electricity used at RainFresh Harvests. Solar panels do the same, and produce heat.

He also pointed out how construction materials used in the greenhouses make them more energy-efficient and help him grow food year-round.

  • Adler, 60, has about $40,000 invested in his renewable operations, but he said the cost of the panels and turbines has fallen since he installed them several years ago, and the equipment has improved.

The bigger greenhouse, which has nearly 1,500 square feet, has panels on the roof that generate electricity and heat, and batteries inside the building to store power.

Adler’s business is not new to the tour, but plenty of others are this year as interest continues to grow, said William Spratley, Green Energy Ohio’s CEO.

The tour includes drugstores and a stable with solar panels. Churches are part of the event, as are homes with solar panels that create electricity for electric cars, Spratley said.

Among those touring Adler’s business was Yang Xing, 31, of Wooster, who is doing postgraduate work in environmental science at Ohio State University.  “I’m trying to see if there is an opportunity to get some hands-on experience,” said Xing, who was particularly interested in methods Adler uses to grow food.

  • Kevin Malhame, a founder of Northstar Cafe in Columbus, has been buying arugula, basil, oregano, mint, specialty vegetables and other food from Adler for eight years.  “The greens and herbs are fantastic,” he said.

That Adler uses renewable energy to power his operations is a plus for Northstar, Malhame said. “That makes it more valuable to us,” he said.

Adler’s interest in food and energy date to the 1970s, when the organic-food movement took hold in California, followed by the Arab oil embargo that drove up fuel prices.  Adler said his goal is to show visitors that it’s possible in Ohio to use sunshine and wind to grow crops in a sustainable way and make a few bucks along the way.   “It allows me to share my experiences with what I’ve done,” he said.

For more information about the tour, go to http://www.greenenergyohio.org  . mawilliams@dispatch.com

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