What is in this article?:
- Solar energy shines brightly for California agriculture
- Solar incentives, tax advantages keep changing
- Solar energy and sustainability
- California is the solar capital of the U.S., if not the world. There are now more than 72,000 systems in the state, generating an estimated 724 megawatts of power.
- Agriculture is embracing solar just as rapidly as other industries and municipalities. There are too many incentives, financial and otherwise, for producers not to grab sunbeams.
- Del Mar Farms’ packing operation at Patterson, Calif., is one of latest to join the stampede to solar, with a recently-installed roof-mounted 354 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that will produce 600,000 kilowatt hours of power annually.
Solar incentives, tax advantages keep changing
Maring cautions that solar incentives and tax advantages keep changing. “Rebates and incentives are a moving target, so if you’re thinking about solar you need to watch it because it is changing all the time.”
Del Mar’s solar array will cover about a fourth of the packing house’s energy costs, but will produce 90 to 95 percent of the energy needs of that area. The electric bill for that area has been about $70,000 per year, and Maring figures a payback for the installation in four years.
Maring was reluctant to discuss details of Del Mar’s specific rebate/incentive/tax payback scenario, but it is obvious the ultimate cash outlay is significantly less than the purchase cost.
“It is pretty complicated and involves income tax brackets, incentives, depreciation and rebates from energy companies,” he says. Unlike some solar packages, Del Mar cannot sell energy back to Pacific Gas and Electric.
Del Mar General Manager Brian Wright and Maring say another important factor in moving to solar is the growing sustainability issue in food production. Del Mar will get new sustainable “points” for the solar installation.
Del Mar has been audited for sustainability for the past six years. Wright says the company audits internally as well as inviting third party and buyer audits to enhance commodity sales to companies like food-buying giants like Sysco, Costco and Wal-Mart.
Del Mar is proud of its 2009 sustainability audit score of 92 percent.
“Everybody is looking for points on their sustainability grade sheets. We are doing everything we can to use less water, less energy and things like that in growing the crops. Solar energy is something we can do beyond what we are doing in the field and in the packing process,” says Maring.