John Wynn, General Manager of Golden Empire Shelling, says switching to solar energy to power the almond processing plant in California will save the company millions.

When John Wynn, general manager of Golden Empire Shelling, got his start in the almond business nearly 20 years ago, the industry was producing a fraction of 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 one of California’s most valuable agricultural commodities — second only to milk in 2015, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Yet almond yields have declined over the past few years, in part due to California’s drought.

“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 at a point where solar makes complete financial sense.”

Wynn shares more about his decision to go solar in this video.

Solar Energy Applications in Agriculture

Founded in 2007, Golden Empire Shelling is a grower-owned, state-of-the-art facility in the Golden State's Central Valley, processing up to 70 million meat pounds of almonds per year. When the drought caused yields to decline, Wynn sought an equally state-of-the-art solution that could help cut costs: a farm solar power system.

The 45,000-square-foot nut processing company uses a significant amount of power. It runs 24/7 during the four-month harvest. With the company’s cost of power increasing an average of 5 percent a year, Wynn recognized the need to drastically reduce or eliminate the company’s electric bill.

He turned to Jeff Periera, owner of SunPower by Sun Solar, for a solution, and Periera recommended the SunPower® HelixTM system.

Benefits of the SunPower Helix Commercial Solar System

With a SunPower high-efficiency Helix system, Golden Empire Shelling was able to use less land than projected for the ground-mount system, an important consideration. The SunPower system produces more energy than conventional systems.

The solar system offsets an estimated 90 percent of the almond processor’s electricity in the peak season and more than covers electricity use during the off-season, when it produces enough energy to qualify for a credit on the company’s utility bill.

The system was partially financed with a low-interest loan from Farm Credit West, and the company also took advantage of federal tax credits and has applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture REAP grant, which if approved may provide up to an additional $500,000 in funding.

Even without the grant Wynn says the project will pay for itself in less than five years, producing clean energy for many more years to come.

1 2015 Almond Almanac, Almond Board of California