The sun does more than grow the feed for the dairy cows supplying Joseph Farms cheese. It provides electricity for pumps, coolers and other equipment at the farm.
The company hosted a tour Wednesday of the 7,840 solar panels, which were installed a year ago and meet about half of the farm’s demand. They do not power the nearby cheese plant – most of that has been done for 13 years by burning methane captured from cattle manure.
The 2-megawatt solar system will pay for itself in about seven years through lower utility bills, said Peter Gallo, a third-generation leader at Joseph Gallo Farms, which owns the cheese brand.
“It’s a long-term investment, but we’ve always been invested in California dairy for the long term,” he said. The project was aided by incentives from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and federal tax credits.
It’s a long-term investment, but we’ve always been invested in California dairy for the long term.
Peter Gallo, on solar project
The system will help meet California’s ambitious goals for reducing climate-changing emissions. It is equivalent to taking 292 cars off the road or planting 706,000 carbon-absorbing trees over 20 years, Gallo said.
SolarCity, based in San Mateo, installed the 2-megawatt system on 8 acres about 2 miles southeast of Atwater. It is maintaining the panels, which includes washing of the surfaces with water brought in by truck, said Scott Peattie, senior project development manager.
The late Joseph Gallo got into dairy farming in 1946 and built the cheese plant in 1982. He was the brother of the late Ernest and Julio Gallo, founders of E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto.
Joseph Gallo Farms has been honored for other environmental efforts. It conserves energy and water used in farming and cheese production, and it donated nearly 8,000 acres to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.
John Holland: 209-578-2385