Santa Paula Times

There’s something new being farmed at Limoneira Ranch... the sun. A celebration of the agricultural company’s 5.5-acre “solar orchard” - the first of its kind - was held Tuesday, drawing dignitaries from throughout Ventura County.

Green energy: Something new is being farmed at Limoneira... the sun

October 31, 2008
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThere’s something new being farmed at Limoneira Ranch... the sun. And a celebration of the agricultural company’s 5.5-acre “solar orchard” - the first of its kind - was held Tuesday, drawing dignitaries from throughout Ventura County.Comments from those in crowd ranged from “amazing” to “inspirational” as guests surveyed the solar orchard, an eight million dollar investment that will not only pay for itself, but also save the company millions in future power costs as well potential energy sales.“Limoneira is on the cutting edge of innovation,” said Brian Miller, aide to Rep. Elton Gallegly. “Sustainability is the wave of the future.”The rows of solar panels are designed to annually produce electrical power equivalent for almost 200 average American homes.Limoneira, one of the nation’s largest agribusinesses, partnered with Perpetual Power (P2) to create the 6,400 photovoltaic module solar orchard, which officially opened October 28. Annual generation of 1,950-megawatt hours will be used for one of Limoneira’s lemon storage facilities.“By farming the sun, we’re going to vastly reduce our energy costs,” said Limoneira President/CEO Harold Edwards, “especially important given how fast the price of power is rising. Clearly, this investment will continue to pay off for decades.”“Once again,” said Supervisor Kathy Long, “Limoneira is leading the way in Ventura County with their solar orchard. It’s a good investment that is good for all of us,” and one that should set an example for other enterprises.“Limoneira - and everyone - should be proud of their innovation.” Long worked with Edwards on the county planning process, which she compared to “putting something new in an old box... and we’re all better for it.”Limoneira Co. has proven their ability to diversify, noted Mayor Bob Gonzales. “And, they’ve been environmentally friendly in everything they are doing. I really applaud them for having that vision” to create “a solar orchard in the middle of a lemon orchard to run their plant” by harvesting the energy of the sun.Gonzales believes the Santa Clara River Valley could become ground zero for innovative energy alternatives, including harnessing the winds that blow through the vale. The project, he added, is just the latest example of the company’s direction from “strictly agricultural to entrepreneurial... and I applaud them.”
Creating the solar orchard required the removal of 600 lemon trees, said Gus Gunderson, Limoneira’s director of southern operations.“When Harold joined the company we started closing the loop” of innovative growth and green thinking such as the company’s partnership with Agromin, which recycles green waste into mulch that curbs erosion, reduces water use and inhibits weed growth in large orchards and private landscapes. The solar orchard, noted Gunderson, is “a logical next step.”“Solar is coming, and coming rapidly, and we really are proud to be at the front end,” said Edwards. “We found yet another way to demonstrate that there’s no conflict between sound business decisions and being an environmentally conscious, sustainable enterprise. And everybody wins.”And he hopes Limoneira sets an example for others, especially in the Santa Paula area. “Santa Paula can be known internationally for its sustainable practices,” and Edwards said he has a “vision” the city would become a hub of the industry, providing employment while spreading green environment-saving practices.“There’s a fine line between being on the leading edge or the bleeding edge. By doing this, Limoneira is setting an example and helping to preserve the quality of life in Ventura County.”“It’s our largest installation to date,” and P2 Founder Mark Palamountain said the company and Limoneira are partnering on another ranch to create a solar orchard. When completed, the second solar orchard will mean that Limoneira has a total of 15 acres covered with panels creating 2.4 megawatts.“It will definitely be the biggest private system” in the state and, noted Palamountain, “for a company Limoneira’s size it’s pretty tremendous.” Limoneira is also working with the UCSB Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into the company’s community development in East Area 1.Since its founding in 1893, Limoneira has been a key player in California’s storied agriculture industry, and today grows lemons, avocados, oranges, fruits, nuts and specialty crops on its 7,000 acres. The company also works closely with the communities where it operates to create neighborhoods and provide housing.