Solar panels and onion power show the way to Ag energy self-sufficiency

Secretary Ross at the Duda Farm Fresh Foods/Gills Onions renewable energy event in Ventura County, with, from left-to-right, Gordon Burns, Undersecretary, Cal-EPA; Sam Duda; David Gill; Rory Bruton, a local fourth grader who spoke of being inspired by local growers; Steve Gill and Danny Duda.

One of the strategic objectives of Ag Vision: Strategies for Sustainability is to achieve the maximum usage of renewable energy by agriculture, thereby increasing economic productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.  Governor Brown has demonstrated important leadership with policy and legislative initiatives to help the state expand renewable energy opportunities, especially from forest biomass and byproducts from farms and processors. 

Innovative farmers and agribusinesses up and down the state are making investments in solar, wind and digester technology to be more energy self-sufficient.  On a recent trip to Ventura County, I saw an impressive new installation of 2,100 square feet of solar panels,  producing 24,000 kilowatt hours of power each month at the Duda Farm Fresh Foods celery packaging facility. 

Just across the street, I saw first-hand the creative solutions adopted by Gills’ Onions to achieve the family’s sustainability goals. Gills Onions has developed a system that produces clean energy from the byproducts of processed onions – converting 100% of daily onion waste (up to 300,000 lbs) into renewable energy and cattle feed. And now, the company has partnered with Prudent Energy to install the world’s largest flow battery project of its kind. The battery provides 3.6 megawatts of onsite electricity storage – onion power! The storage will reduce the need for energy purchases during peak demand periods and enable the company to avoid additional greenhouse gas emissions. I was honored to be invited to an event earlier this month introducing these exciting developments and celebrating the commitment of these two leading produce families to smart business decisions that are good for the environment, their community and their bottom line.

Innovative programs like these are reasons why Governor Brown has made renewable energy a cornerstone of his policy platform. Beyond the environmental benefits, which are universally recognized, the governor sees value to California’s economic recovery. Investments in clean energy produce two to three times as many jobs per dollar as gas, oil or coal, and dollars invested in clean energy tend to stay in California. So, the potential is real – we just need to grab it and move forward, or, if you wish, start peeling back the layers of the onion.

Solar panels at the Duda Family Fresh Farms celery facility in Oxnard.

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One Response to Solar panels and onion power show the way to Ag energy self-sufficiency

  1. Christy Clayton says:

    How refreshingly wonderful to read about real progressive innovation in action! It is tangible. It is working. It is positive and hopeful for future projects in all industries. And, it is common sense at work! Many thanks to Duda Farm Fresh Foods and Gill’s Onions for being visionaries and acting upon a good idea!

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