Energy Incentives Worry Valley Farmers

By Mo Rousso
Chief Technology Officer, HelioPower

John Cox, Californian staff writer, recently highlighted the growingconcern over energy and energy related incentives for growers in theCentral Valley.

His article, Energy incentives programs worry valley farmers, illustrates how important energy costs are to the agricultural community and how difficult it is to manage those expenditures.

HelioPower has been specializing in the agricultural andfood-processing sector for some time.  Out of our work to cut energy use and create new energy solutions, we have gained a pretty good sense ofwhat drives farmers.  We have listened to their concerns includingpractical solutions, cost sensitivity, strong rate of return, andminimum impact to their business operations.

The article points to a key issue regarding time of use energy demand and the need to lower energy usage during peak hours. These are thesame hours that growers most use water irrigation equipment, as anexample of one of the critical issues.

From the article: “Adjusting to the time-of-use incentive may require farmers to invest in new irrigation equipment and rework their laborschedules.

Even more worrisome for farmers is the critical peak demand program.Agricultural companies are not always able to reschedule workers, andturning away water already on order may mean they won’t get it back fordays — and that may be too late.”

This calls attention to the need for new power generationapproaches.  These technologies must generate energy during the critical peak demand.  One such example is the installation HelioPowerengineered for Sunnyland Mills in Fresno, CA. 

Sunnyland Mills is the first company in the U.S. to utilize solar power to make bulgur. According to Mike Orlando, Chairman of the Board:

HelioPower on site at Sunnyland Mills solar installation, Fresno, CA.
HelioPower on site at Sunnyland Mills solar installation, Fresno, CA.

“Sunnyland started in 1935 using the sun to dry wheat for bulgur.  We are going back to our roots by utilizing the energy of the sun toproduce our products.”  HelioPower was the consultant and contractor for the project.  Since the Sunnyland system was commissioned in 2007, ithas produced 102% of expected energy.

This is just one example of how new approaches to energy reductionand generation can serve the farmers in the Central Valley meet the newenergy incentives in California.

HelioPower has created a solutions approach that blends energyeconomics (costs and returns, as well as financing options) and energyengineering (practical design, integrated technologies, and O&M). The cornerstone to our approach is our PowerAdvisor energy analyticsengine that allows us to model potential solutions within the context of our client’s operational needs and that hit the mark with respect to the decision drivers above.  So,when we propose a solution, we will have considered time-of-useelectricity rates versus the farmer’s need to schedule water andirrigate his crops.  Only solutions that address needs in this mannerbecome practical and provide value to the agricultural community.

Editor’s Note: Mo Rousso is the Chief Technology Officer for HelioPower. He is a true clean energy veteran, having installed his first solarpower system in 1975.  He started the company in 2001 and is nowresponsible for the engineering of innovative energy solutions andtechnologies that deliver increased return on investment.

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