Solar panels at Taylor Farms in San Juan Bautista. Photo courtesy of Taylor Farms.
Solar panels at Taylor Farms in San Juan Bautista. Photo courtesy of Taylor Farms.

Taylor Farms announced on Sept. 21 that they will be using their San Juan Bautista processing facility, which produces salad kits and fresh-cut products, as a proving ground for an energy-saving program that will take it off the traditional power grid with a goal of reducing its carbon footprint.

“Solar power is something we have always been intrigued by,” said Rachel Molatore, Taylor Farms director of communications. “We did our first solar installation in 2012 and we have solar now at seven of our other facilities. But before this project, we have never been able to save and store the energy. We have to ensure we have power all the time, whether we are processing or just storing and cooling.”

A press release from Taylor Farms reports that the company will be installing a microgrid consisting of 6 megawatts (MW) of Bloom Energy fuel cells, 2MW of solar panels, and a 2MW/4 megawatt-hour battery. 

A megawatt of electricity, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is equal to the power consumed by between 400 and 900 homes per year. A megawatt hour equals 1,000 kilowatts of electricity generated per hour.

Daytime power will come from the solar cells and the fuel cells which will generate “always-on” power. Combined with the batteries, this will guarantee enough electricity to power the plant 24 hours a day. 

“If you are looking at a facility as large as the one in San Juan Bautista,” said Bloom Energy Technology Advocate Chris Ball, “throughout the day there are different energy demands. If you are looking for what you need to power that size of a facility, you need a power generator and the solar to help at peak load and batteries to smooth it all out.”                                       

Bloom fuel cells convert natural gas or hydrogen into electricity without combustion and with very little or no carbon dioxide emissions. Bloom Energy, located in San Jose, has installed over 100 microgrids and claims their system reduces carbon waste compared to the grid.

“Bloom is based on solid oxide technology,” Ball said. “We will be taking pipeline natural gas which will be converted to electricity through an electrochemical process. It is a non-combustible technology, so by avoiding the combustion, you are avoiding the nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide particulate matter you get from burning fossil fuels.”

The benefits of using this process, according to Ball, are higher efficiency and cleaner air, with the primary waste being water, which is recycled back into the process.

“This combination of renewable energy and low carbon energy will work together to generate what we need to run the facility,” Molatore said. “We are using this program to validate our approach.”

The first part of the project, the installation of the solar panels, has been completed.

 “We have solar paneling on the roofs of seven of our 22 facilities already,” Molatore said. “For the San Juan Bautista facility, we decided to do the panels as a canopy. We worked with Concept Clean Energy and have created a solar array that allows for around 340 cars to park underneath.” 

The rest of the project will be completed by spring 2023. The batteries and fuel cells will be installed in the southeast section of the facility, just below the location of the solar panels.

The California Air Resources Board estimates that agriculture is the fifth largest source of California’s greenhouse gasses, according to a report issued by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, with methane emissions from livestock accounting for 70% of the total. The California Independent System Operator estimates the daily peak use of electricity in the state at 32,921 MW an hour, with approximately 13% supplied by renewable resources.


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