Golden Empire Shelling (GES) wanted to realize operational efficiencies for itsleading-edge almond shelling facility with a high-performance solar system.
Commercial Dealer SunPower by Sun Solar installed a 1.04 MW SunPower®HelixTM system, with 2,400 panels tracking the sun for maximum energyproduction on 4.5 acres..
The system offsets an estimated 90 percent of the almond processor’selectricity use with solar in the peak season, and more than covers electricityuse during the off-season.
“Now, as an industry we arereally at a point where solarmakes complete financial sense.”John WynnGeneral Manager, Golden Empire Shelling
When John Wynn, general manager of Golden Empire Shelling, got his start inthe almond business nearly 20 years ago, the industry was producing a fractionof the crop it does today. Wildly popular for their health and taste appeal,almonds are now used in everything from cereals to snack foods and are oneof California’s most valuable agricultural commodities — second only to milkin 2015, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.1Yetalmond yields have declined over the past few years, in part due to California’sraging drought.
Sowing the Seeds of Solar
Founded in 2007, GES is a grower-owned, state-of-the-art facility, processingup to 70 million pounds of almonds per year. When the drought caused yieldsto decline, Wynn sought an equally progressive solution that could help cutcosts: solar.
“I’d looked at solar three or four times over the past 10 years,” Wynn recalls,“and each time it became more affordable. Now, as an industry we are really ata point where solar makes complete financial sense.”
While GES is a dry-processing operation, it does use lots of power. The45,000-square-foot facility runs 24/7 during the four-month harvest, andmaintaining a dust-free operation requires giant Hoover-style vacuums. Withthe company’s cost of power increasing an average of five percent per year,Wynn recognized the need to drastically reduce or eliminate the company’selectric bill.
That’s when Wynn turned to Jeff Periera, owner of SunPower by Sun Solar,for a solution. Knowing the company’s reputation for high-quality equipment,Periera recommended the Helix system. It was a recommendation Wynncould embrace.
“I believe in the SunPower® product – the longer life and lower degradationrate of the panels – and knowing that Jeff would stand behind the productmade the difference,” Wynn notes.
“I believe in the SunPowerproduct – the longer life andlower degradation rate of thepanels – and knowing that Jeffwould stand behind the productmade the difference.”John WynnGeneral Manager, Golden Empire Shelling
Tracking the Sun for Maximum
SavingsWith SunPower’s high-efficiency panels and integrated Helix Tracker system,GES was able to use less land than projected for the ground-mount system,an important consideration. Plus, the SunPower system produces 30 percentmore energy than competitive systems.
GES now offsets its electricity use by an average of 90 percent in the peakseason. In the off-season, the system outpaces consumption for a crediton the company’s utility bill. Partially financed with a low-interest loan fromFarm Credit West, the company also took advantage of federal tax creditsand applied for a USDA REAP grant, which may provide up to an additional$500,000 in funding. While the grant decision hasn’t come in yet, even withoutit Wynn says the project will pay for itself in less than five years and produceclean energy for many more years to come.