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08/01/2007 02:00:00 AM

Paramount Farms flips switch on solar energy plant

By Don Schrack
The Packer

California’s largest grower and processor of pistachios and almonds has scored a farming first
by building the state’s largest single-site agriculture solar energy plant near Los Hills.

Los Angeles-based Paramount Farms Inc. built the 1.1-megawatt solar energy plant on 8 acres adjacent to the company’s pistachio processing plant in the San Joaquin Valley.

Stewart Resnick, chairman and owner of Roll International Corp., whose holdings include Paramount Farms, says the reasons for building the plant were both ethical and financial.

“This corporation has a commitment to the whole green movement,” Resnick says.

Roll International also owns Paramount Citrus Association in Delano, which shipped 12 million boxes of citrus under the Sunkist label last season. The company now markets its own citrus.

The solar energy plant represents a $7.5 million investment. Resnick says with tax credits, rebates and accelerated depreciation, the corporation would recapture the investment in about eight years.

Paramount Farms joins a slowly growing list of California agriculture firms using solar energy. In 2005, P-R Farms Inc. in Clovis installed a 1-megawatt system at the company’s packinghouse near Fresno.

Exeter-based clamshell manufacturer Peninsula Packaging Co. unveiled its 7-acre solar energy array last winter.

Terra Linda Farms in Riverdale also joined the solar parade in May.

Unlimited Energy of Fresno installed a 60,000-watt solar system at the family-owned company’s onion packing shed.

Tommie Nellon, chief executive officer of Unlimited Energy, says the solar array at Terra Linda Farms would provide up to 90 percent of the energy the onion packing shed uses during the four
to five months it operates annually. Pacific Gas & Electric would pay the company for unused energy produced during nonoperating months.

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