Community hopes new initiative will be a nest egg for solar power

  • Two of the ostriches on Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Gomer, one of the ostriches on Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton on June, 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michael Bedford of Fowl Language Farm checks his solar array on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michael Bedford of Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton with some of his ostriches June 16. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Two of the ostriches at Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Two of Michael Bedford’s ostriches on Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • With its wandering ostriches, Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton stands as an example of the integration of modern technology like solar energy into the rural landscape. The farm is a customer of a solar startup. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • A deer stands in an open field near the solar array that Michael Bedford has constructed on his Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Bedford kept part of the field open for deer to come and graze. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michael Bedford of Fowl Language Farm in Gilmanton with some of his ostriches on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michael Bedford of Fowl Language Farm checks the ostrich eggs on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Michael Bedford of Fowl Language Farm checks what his solar array is producing from his cellphone on Wednesday.

Monitor staff
Published: 7/4/2021 8:00:16 PM

Starting a poultry farm in central New Hampshire with a funny-sounding name while raising the largest birds on the planet is sure to raise some eyebrows.

Two years after Mike Bedford officially formed Fowl Language Farm and started raising ostriches on a scenic hilltop in Gilmanton, his home agriculture business is attracting attention for a different reason.

Bedford was one of the first customers of SunFlower LLC, a small solar start-up company in town with a bright idea. SunFlower wanted to grow renewable energy at homes, businesses and farms throughout Gilmanton, population 3,750, which is located a few miles south of Lake Winnipesaukee.

They started an initiative called Solarize Gilamanton, with the goal to get as many residents as possible to install solar. The town put out a request for proposals to solar companies that would be willing to create a tiered pricing system to allow installation costs to go down as more people sign up.

SunFlower, located right in town, won the contract. The program kicked off in April with the goal to get 15 solar arrays installed the first year. So far, five have been installed with proposals for 24 more.

At Fowl Language, Bedford’s ground-mounted array serves as the “foundation for the farm.” His property was one of the stops on a recent tour for interested solar customers in town to see how the panels work, how much electricity they produce, and see how modern technology can blend into a rural landscape.

The solar panels allow Bedford more independence from power companies and within 15 years, Bedford predicts they will have paid for themselves.

“I am not beholden to something I don’t have a lot of control over,” said Bedford.

The town picked SunFlower because of its close location, affordable prices and unique offerings – like its year-round solar greenhouse and practice of planting wildflowers around ground arrays, said Aimee Ruiter head of the Solarize Gilmanton subcommittee.

Ruiter said the main advantage for homeowners is the freedom and security provided by using solar.

“Being able to produce most of your power from the sun, you know how much that is going to cost. Where as the cost of utilities is provided by the grid and you have no control over that,” said Ruiter.

SunFlower’s only current employees are its two co-founders Connor Sandborn and Vincenzo Sisti. The two got their start in green energy when they had solar panels installed for their greenhouse. After that, they decided, why not do solar panels themselves. To this day, they still use the same solar panel installation company for every installation job.

Their small size comes with some benefits. The co-owners said they are able to work remotely with far more ease than larger companies and with only two faces for the company, customer service is much easier.

Solar panels are only one part of the equation though, SunFlower also plants a number of wildflowers and native plants underneath ground-mounted solar arrays. The flowers cool down the solar panels during the summer heat.

Ruiter is happy with the progress of the initiative so far.

There are benefits for the town, too, said Sisti. Each individual residence benefits from pricing similar to that of a large commercial installation since the town as a whole serves as one large installation.

“You can think of it almost as a group purchase scenario, where it can be a one-on-one contract, but they are still getting that group pricing,” said Sisti. Another reason for the reduced price, is that because the program is marketed by the town, SunFlower doesn’t have to spend as much money on marketing.

Without a necessity to advertise, the co-owners said they can play a different role, the role of an educator.

“We don’t have to necessarily be selling as much as we are – just getting the info out and getting the word out that this is something that can save people money, help with their environmental footprint and help the community as a whole,” said Sandborn.

Bedford of Fowl Language Farm, where he raises and incubates ostriches that he calls “prehistoric toddlers,” has similar thoughts.

“If you have people that are really interested in long-term commitment to a house, to a property or maybe they are adding value to it, they are immediately going to see what I saw, that doing this is a no-brainer,” he said. “In the end, you are in control of your own, you are building something that is going to add value to your property.”




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy