Five Crowns installs massive solar power array

01/09/2012 12:42:00 PM
Don Schrack

Brawley, Calif.-based Five Crowns Marketing has thrown the switch on a 2.2 megawatt photovoltaic system.

Courtesy Five Crowns MarketingIt is the largest solar system in the Imperial Valley, said Daren Van Dyke, sales and marketing manager, and among the first systems for agriculture in the California desert. Installed by the renewable energy division of Swinerton Inc., San Francisco, the project was completed in less than three months, he said.

About 10% of the system’s solar cells are roof-mounted at the company’s cooling facility, Van Dyke said, while the other cells are ground-based on fixed racks.

“We are excited about the project’s completion,” said Bill Colace, co-owner of Five Crowns. “Not only does it make sense for the environment, but it makes long term business sense as well and supports Five Crowns’ commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

The solar energy system will offset a projected 85% of the power demands of the cooling facility and the processing plant for the company’s partner, Prima Bella Produce Inc., Tracy, Calif., said Kelly Strickland, the new vice president of operations at Five Crowns. The U.S. division of The Netherlands-based Rabobank provided 100% financing, he said. Grants, tax incentives and accelerated depreciation made the project even more attractive.

“If you start adding all that in and consider it cash, they (Five Crowns) were never out of pocket (on the project),” Strickland said.

A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Jan. 12 with representatives of the community, Rabobank, Swinerton and Prima Bella Produce expected to join the Five Crowns staff at the ceremony.

Strickland new to agriculture

Strickland, who took the post Jan. 3, comes to Five Crowns Marketing after overseeing the company’s solar system construction and installation. He will be responsible for the day-to-day business operations at the cooling facility and processing plant and at the Five Crowns citrus packing plant in Calipatria, he said.

Before joining Five Crowns, Strickland was involved in a land brokerage firm and moved to brokering utility scale solar projects for three years, he said. That position led to his building and overseeing the construction of commercial solar system projects.

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