Spotlight: Solar Farmer

Sixth-generation farmer Ronny Lee is an early adopter of a solar system for Lee Turkey Farm

Ronny Lee, owner of Lee Turkey Farm

Who He Is: A sixth-generation farmer, his family has tilled 54 acres of land in East Windsor Township since 1868. His farm, which sells fruits, vegetables and turkeys, was one of the first customers in New Jersey of Sun Farm Network, which puts solar systems on barns and other agricultural land. “I was kind of the guinea pig,’’ he says.

How He Ended Up With A Solar System: He was sitting behind Peter Furery, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau at an agricultural dinner, when he overheard him talking about solar systems, saying it won’t cost the farm anything. “That’s when I got interested,” Lee says. When Sun Farm inspected his property, he was told it rated 97 points out of a possible 100 for suitability regarding a solar installation.

Who’s Complaining About Long Hot, Dry Summers: The record heat of this summer had Lee’s solar system running full tilt. Even with irrigating his farm practically 24 hours a day, the dry and sunny days had the system turning out so many kilowatts that his monthly electric bill came to only $2.20.

It’s In The Genes: The Lee family has a long, rich history of being early adopters: The farm was the first with electricity in the state, the first with indoor plumbing and the first with a telephone — but no one to call, says Lee. It also was the first farm to have customers come in and pick their own vegetables. Each Thanksgiving, the farm sells 2,200 fresh-killed turkeys. “I figured solar kind of fit in with what we’ve been doing,’’ he says.

Unexpected Benefits of Owning a Solar System: When he purchased the system, he figured even if it only saved a little, at least he wouldn’t have to paint the barn roof again. After the panels were installed on the roof, though, he found they cooled off the inside of the barn by eight or nine degrees. “My turkeys were very comfortable.”