Kern almond grower going solar

November 17, 2015 12:34pm

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Two Bushnell family farms in the Central Valley are going solar, contracting with Suniva Inc., a U.S. maker of high-efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells.

Suniva’s “OPTimus” panels are being installed by Nuance Energy Group Inc. and its solar contracting division, AgWell Solar to bring 824kW of solar energy to Bushnell Farms and Three and One Farms, both operated by the Bushnell family, an almond grower in Buttonwillow.

Suniva says solar for farm operations is increasingly attractive with the scheduled ending of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s “Agricultural Internal Combustion Engine Conversion Incentive Program” at the end of the year. Ag-ICE, as it is known, offers lower electric rates in some cases.

“With the ten year AG-ICE rate plan coming to an end, we realized we would need an alternative plan to avoid a significant rate increase imposed by PG&E,” says Julia Bushnell, owner of Bushnell Farms. “Our decision to go solar was an easy one -- after doing the math, we determined that our solar installations would reduce our utility costs by 71 percent. We couldn’t pass it up.”

“Current PG&E AG-ICE customers are in for a world of hurt,” says Brian Boguess, president of Nuance Energy. “That’s because PG&E will place them on an AG5 rate schedule, which will almost double what they are currently paying. The rate change would cost the two Bushnell family Ag operations more than $136,000 in 2016. However, by going solar and converting to an AG4 rate plan, AgWell Solar will save the Bushnell family an estimated $208,000 next year.”

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