ATWATER, Calif., Sept. 21, 2016 (PRNewswire) — Joseph Gallo Farms, maker of Joseph Farms Cheese, unveiled a new 2 megawatt (MW) solar array, the largest privately owned system ever installed on a California dairy. The fixed-array system supplies renewable energy on-site for the family's dairy farm.
"Sustainable farming has been a core value in our family starting with my grandfather, Joseph Gallo," said third-generation dairy farmer and cheesemaker Peter Gallo. "We've envisioned integrating solar energy on the farm for as long as I can remember, and today is a step towards greater sustainability."
By harvesting the sun's power on 7,840 solar panels on 8 acres, the fixed-array system provides on-site renewable energy that will significantly reduce its need for electricity from the local utility and avoid an estimated 27,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next 20 years. This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equal to planting more than 706,000 trees in the next 20 years or removing more than 292 cars from the road annually. The amount of power produced could power 282 average homes a year.
The deployment of the 2 MW solar array helps carry out Governor Brown's renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals and initiatives, including: AB 32 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, SB 32 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and SB 350 to increase renewable energy generation to 50 percent by 2030.
"This project aligns with the work we've been doing for 13 years to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to green, renewable energy that is generated right here on our farm," says Gallo.
Joseph Gallo Farms is a pioneer in sustainable farming practices in California. In addition to the new solar array, Joseph Gallo Farms also operates one of the largest and longest-running methane digesters in California, which captures biogas from cow manure and then uses the biogas to fuel generators to produce energy. The electricity produced by this renewable "cow power" is used on-site and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and decreases the farm's dependence on fossil fuels.
"Our new solar array meets about half of our energy needs for our dairy and farming operations," Gallo said. "Partnered with our existing methane digester, we're moving closer to becoming a net-zero energy dairy farm and cheese plant, continuing a long tradition of pioneering renewable energy deployment and sustainability practices."
SolarCity, the nation's largest solar power provider, installed the solar power system.
"Joseph Gallo Farms has long been a leader in sustainable dairy farming and cheesemaking, especially when it comes to producing and utilizing renewable, green energy," said Erik Fogelberg, SolarCity's Senior Vice President of Commercial PV & Storage Solutions. "We are proud to help further expand that capability and meet their environmental goals, all while helping them save on their energy costs."
Gallo's vision of complete sustainability has transitioned from a single project to an overall program, and while the solar array is the latest step, it's certainly not the last.
"We're always looking to the future to improve our environmental performance on the farm and at the cheese plant. It's our family's commitment to our customers, neighbors and planet," says Gallo.
About Joseph Gallo Farms
Joseph Gallo Farms/Joseph Farms Cheese, family farmed since 1946, is a dairy, cheese-making, and whey business in the small community of Atwater in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley. The Gallo family's focus on sustainability and quality includes a new solar array system, methane-powered cheese plant and award-winning innovative environmental programs. The family dairy is Environmentally Certified by the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program and Joseph Farms was the first U.S. cheesemaker to label their products with an FDA approved Artificial Hormone Free guarantee. The family has provided nearly 8,000 acres of land to the San Luis Wildlife Refuge, a critical habitat for waterfowl and other threatened wildlife species, and restored more than 2,700 acres of their own land to upland and wetland wildlife habitat.