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Central Valley solar energy powers pistachio farm

April 1, 2011 |  8:45 am

Nichols Field 4.jpeg
Alongside the sprawling grove of pistachio trees at Nichols Farms near Fresno, a 6-acre solar-panel installation is now up and running.

The 1-megawatt concentrating photovoltaic project, built by Bechtel Power Corp. and featuring SolFocus technology, is being called the first of its kind in the agricultural Central Valley.

The plant is connected to the Southern California Edison grid and will produce enough electricity to cover 70% of the 50-year-old pistachio farm’s demand. The technology involves a system of reflective optics that concentrates sunlight at 650 times the intensity onto small, highly efficient solar cells.

The massive panes sit above the ground on poles. The system uses no water and doesn’t create permanent shadows, SolFocus said. 

The number of solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters on farms and ranches across the country has boomed in the last decade to nearly 9,000 operations, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nearly 8,000 of those were solar-panel installations. California farmers alone had nearly 2,000 renewable energy systems, including a fuel cell that runs on onion waste in Oxnard.

RELATED:

Onions produce tears and energy at an Oxnard plant

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: SolFocus/Bechtel

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