Lundberg Family Farms plugs into the sun, again

Continuing its commitment to environmental practices and creating clean, self-contained power on the farm, Lundberg Family Farms completed construction of its second solar array. The installation, which features solar panels atop 20,000 square feet of the company’s warehouse, will provide 185 kilowatts of power, equaling up to 10 percent of the company’s total electrical needs. The system was “plugged in” on April 25 to start harnessing the sun’s plentiful, radiant energy.

The newest solar panels can produce up to 337,826 kilowatt-hours per year. Based on this estimated energy production, the system will potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11,123 tons over 25 years — the equivalent of planting 125 acres of trees or not driving 27,807,500 miles.

The warehouse on top of which the panels were built houses the company’s cold storage area, the rice cakes department and the processing department. The panels will provide approximately 15 percent of the power needed to run these areas. Even the panels themselves are energy savers: The shade that these flat panels will provide is projected to save 10 percent of the energy needed to cool the warehouse.

The first solar array, completed last September, is a 196.85 kW ground-mounted photovoltaic electric generating system on one acre of land. This installation powers the company’s Stars rice drier facility and produces more than 350,000 kWh/yr.

As with the first solar array project, the second system is connected to the Pacific Gas and Electric meter, which directs the power to be used either on-site at Lundberg or out to the California grid. Connection to the California power grid enables the farm to contribute extra power to the grid during times of low power usage and pull power off when needed. Because Lundberg generates the most power in the summer months when the state’s power demand is highest, this not only helps provide clean energy to the state, when it’s needed most, but it also creates an economic advantage for Lundberg and helps to reduce the payback time to only 8 to 10 years.

With both solar projects in operation, 15 percent to 20 percent of the company’s total electrical use is accounted for with self-generated solar power. These initiatives, plus Lundberg’s commitment to wind power to offset the balance of its electrical use, add to the company’s overall plans to improve energy efficiency and reduce its footprint on the earth.

“Our organic and sustainable products already contribute to the health of our customers,” said Jessica Lundberg, board chair and nursery manager for Lundberg Family Farms. “We also want to contribute to the health of the planet by generating solar energy at the facility and offsetting the remaining electrical energy use with wind energy. Our long-term goal is to continue improving energy efficiency to reduce our overall usage.”

Lundberg paired up with Steller Energy Solutions of Healdsburg, Calif., to install the latest solar array. Construction took approximately eight weeks.

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