- California's high energy costs -- among the highest in the nation -- make solar atractive for agricultural operations
- Utilities do not allow growers to over-produce their power needs because they are required by law to purchase that power
- Water is pumped from 800 feet to irrigate forages grown for the large-herd dairy
Water used to grow the wheat crop for Mike Monteiro, left, and his brother Manuel, is pumped from 800 feet. To offset the heavy pumping costs Lakeside Dairy installed a solar power system, which covers about 75 percent of the operation’s utility costs.
Converting forages into dairy products for human consumption is a matter of energy that is increasingly costly and difficult to contain within shrinking margins for California producers.
The energy needed to move irrigation water and run Central California’s power-hungry farming operations and dairy facilities is a significant cost to the entire operation. Five-figure monthly utility bills can be debilitating when milk prices tank and the only cost-cutting measure left is to skimp on feed ration components.
If there is one thing California is known for is its sunshine, and what better way to reduce the high input costs of pumping water from 800 feet and powering a large dairy operation with 7,000 head of cattle than to tap a resource that regularly appears over the Sierra Nevada and sticks around for 8-14 hours depending on the season.
Lakeside Dairy was built in 2006 by brothers Mike and Manuel Monteiro, two third-generation dairy producers and Central California growers. After suffering through the larger economic downturn that continues to impact the state, and until recently sent milk prices crashing several dollars below the cost of production, Mike Monteiro said the necessity of solar was obvious to the business.
“We needed to figure out how to produce our own electricity,” Monteiro said. “After building the dairy and expanding it to full milk production I began to set my sights on producing our own electricity.”