Agricultural uses of solar energy is becoming common with energy generating sites, in areas of predictable sunshine, popping up across much of the West and Southwest. An example being put in place near Wasco, Calif., is the generating system for Bear Creek Ranch, an affiliation of Pacific Ag Management, which will be used to power the water pumps and irrigation system for almond orchards.

The solar system is being constructed on a 1.5-acre site, and power generation will annually be 470,000 KWh of energy. The project design is by Conergy’s Solar Large Projects Group, which touts the system as reducing carbon dioxide levels, by going from petroleum-fueled water pumps to electric water pumps, by 308,000 pounds per year or the equivalent of not driving a gasoline-powered car 6 million miles.

Operators of the farming operation decided to go solar because they wanted to reduce their operating costs and hedge against rising utility rates. Conergy reports that by using an operating lease financing structure, the power plant will provide the ranch $2.6 million in utility savings over the next 25 years.

“By implementing a solar power plant we are able to turn our energy costs into predictable fixed costs. By hedging against rising utility rates, we can increase our profitability, have better cost control and improved forecasting capabilities.” said Keith Gardiner, managing partner of Bear Creek Ranch. “We chose Conergy as our project developer due to its track record, its reputation of installing similar systems on agricultural operations and the company’s responsiveness.”

Gardiner believed Coenergy’s claim to be able to develop cost effective solutions for the unique challenges that the agricultural business sector throws at using solar energy. Crop irrigation pumps is a prime example of solar energy being cost effective. “With this solar power plant, Bear Creek Ranch is showing their environmental stewardship and energy leadership in the agricultural industry.” said Conergy’s David Vincent, project development manager.

Agricultural operations typically need help from planning, financing and engineering to procurement, construction, permitting, and maintenance, which the larger solar energy engineering and manufacturing companies have come to recognize in order to have solar energy become a vital part of agricultural operations.