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California Agribusiness Uses Solar to Irrigate Crop

Those yummy California lemons, avocados, oranges, pistachios or cherries on your table right now could have been very sustainably grown using solar panels.

That’s because a giant California grower has just installed 1 MW of solar power to water their 7,000 acre farm. The 6,400 solar panels power pumps to bring water up from deep wells for irrigation.

(Normally these irrigation pumps are run by fossil fuels – one of the reasons that our food is so unsustainable.)

The huge solar system is owned and maintained by a third-party company – as are many commercial solar systems in California. This particular company; Perpetual Power in San Francisco sells Limoneira their own farm electricity at $0.08/kWh, more than 30% off California’s average retail electric rate of $0.12/kWh.

Thus the solar arrays are not only good for the environment, but they save the company $200,000 annually by lowering its cost of electricity below the cost of utility electricity Third party solar can thus be a very cost effective way to get solar power, and large arrays are much more cost effective than small ones.

Mitsubishi supplied the solar system with single-axis trackers following the sun’s path through the day to maximise power output by 15%. It complements the farm’s existing 1 MW solar orchard installed in October 2008, now supplying the company with a total of 2 MW of solar power. The new 1 MW solar system will produce 2,300,000 kWh of electricity annually from California sunshine.

“We believe that sustainable business practices are the key to a healthy future and we’re proud to add another megawatt of solar power to our property in Santa Paula, Calif.,” said Harold Edwards, Limoneira’s president and CEO. “We’ve found that doing the right thing often yields positive financial results in the long run as well.”

Of course, relying on pumped aquifer water in an increasingly drought prone world has it’s own problems.

Image from Flikr user Maantas

Via  Solar Daily

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