Solar Power Driving California Agriculture
Solar power is making it easier for farmers in sunny California to save on one of their largest operating expenses: electricity. Over one-third of the United States’ vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California. The state is also home to food processors, beverage suppliers, and others, all of whom are looking for ways to reduce costs while continuing to deliver high quality products. Solar solutions from SunPower are helping California to lead as the nation’s top solar and agricultural producing state.
One grower-owned almond processor based in the 7-square-mile town of Buttonwillow, California now offsets 90 percent of its electricity costs with a 1-megawatt SunPower® Helix™ system. Golden Empire Shelling can see up to 70 million pounds of almonds roll through its state-of-the-art facility each year. With limited land and water resources in the area, the company chose a solar solution that delivers 29 percent more energy per square foot compared to conventional systems, and that can be machine-cleaned with 75 percent less water than manual methods.
“Land and water come at a premium in our valley, so it was imperative that we get the most value out of our over 4-acre solar installation,” said John Wynn, general manager of Golden Empire Shelling and 20-year almond industry veteran. “With the cost-competitive solar generated by our SunPower Helix system, Golden Empire Shelling will be able to dramatically reduce electricity costs and our carbon footprint for at least the next 20 years.”
Golden Empire Shelling’s SunPower Helix system was installed by SunPower by Sun Solar. Celebrating its one year anniversary recently, the Helix platform is the world’s first fully-integrated solar solution for commercial customers. Available for installation as a carport, on the roof, or as a ground-mounted technology, the Helix platform is a pre-engineered, modular solution designed to deliver more energy and greater reliability than conventional solar products.
“With our experience providing innovative SunPower® solar solutions and significant savings to ag customers, we were able to design a highly efficient system for Golden Empire Shelling that is expected to meet the needs of their energy intensive operation for years to come,” said Jeff Periera, owner of SunPower by Sun Solar, a SunPower master dealer. “With the integrated Helix platform, every component is designed to maximize energy from the sun, perform reliably and take up less space. It’s also quick and easy to install which is great for us, and ideal for our customers that have a business to run.”
Hundreds of miles away in Lodi, California, Rivermaid Trading Co. processes and ships more than 50 percent of the state’s pears and eight percent of the state’s cherries. With a 1.47-megawatt SunPower system, the company expects to save more than $13 million on electricity costs over the next 25 years.
“Corporations of all sizes are embracing solar energy as a cornerstone of their operations,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO. “In the United States, for example, seven of the top 10 corporate solar users have chosen SunPower. As we continue to innovate with leading efficiency panels and complete solutions, more businesses are realizing the long-term value that reliable, high quality solar technology can offer.”
SunPower continues to innovate on products that create even more value for customers. The company’s latest generation of the Oasis® power plant designed for large power plant installations, is a complete solution enabling dual use of sites for both electricity and food production. Greater distance between the Oasis tracker rows allows for integrated agricultural activity. SunPower is partnering with University of California, Davis, a global leader in agricultural studies, to evaluate possible crop varieties and yield.
As the number of solar installations increase around the world, the thoughtful integration of solar power systems with agricultural lands and businesses is vitally important for the future of clean energy.