Almond huller’s solar panels make efficient use of land
MARCH 31, 2017
BY JOHN HOLLAND
A triangle of land is doing double duty at Cortez Hulling, which takes the hulls off almonds at a plant near Ballico.
At ground level is a basin that captures heavy storm runoff directed away from the stockpiles of hulls, which are used mainly for dairy feed. On top are solar panels that provide 74 percent of the plant’s electricity.
JKB Energy of Turlock installed the system that way to minimize the footprint on this high-value ground.
“It uses the land in the most efficient way,” Chad Cummings, director of sales and marketing at JKB, said Wednesday. “I think that fits with the values of the ag industry and the values of solar.”
The plant, at Santa Fe and Cortez avenues, is a longtime part of the California almond industry. Booming sales have led to large gains in land values.
The solar system has cut conventional power costs by about $110,000 a year.
“It keeps our Turlock Irrigation District bill low, and doesn’t get in the way of operations,” said David Thiel, general manager of the Cortez Growers Association, which owns the plant.
Cummings said the installation cost was slightly higher than normal because of the need to put the panels on concrete supports above the basin, but it still penciled out.
JKB is one of several solar companies working with farmers and food processors. They have conserved land also by putting panels on rooftops or using them to shade parking lots.