The rising cost of energy combined with incentive programs is making “going green” more appealing to California Almond growers and handlers, according to panelists at the Almond Industry Conference symposium on “Saving Green by Going Green.”

In 2009, AgPollen, LLC removed an acre of 3-year-old almonds in Stanislaus County to make way for a 900-panel, 168 kW solar installation.

“Energy was one of our largest expenses,” said AgPollen’s David Moreland. “We were spending about $300 an acre on energy to operate our well pump.”

Financing incentives through federal tax credits, the USDA and Modesto Irrigation District helped offset the cost of the $1 million system, which easily generates enough energy to cover all of the 240-acre orchard’s pumping needs.

“We have now locked in the costs of our electricity for the next 25 years, which gives us a huge hedge against the rising cost of energy,” said Moreland.

Tom Wilson of PG&E said the utility offers several incentives for improving energy efficiency and reducing demand for fossil fuel-based energy. It works with growers, hullers and shellers to first audit the efficiency of their operations, and then help finance upgrades such as irrigation system improvements, compressor retrofits and pre-cleaner installations that lead to more efficient energy use. Additional incentive programs also available through PG&E help offset the costs of installing solar or biomass generation equipment.