FIVE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR
For the California almond industry, the word “sustainability” can mean many things. While water management issues spring to the forefront of our minds, a more immediate concern for most almond growers and processors is
Rising costs of water and energy make sustaining an almond business tougher than ever. As California addresses water infrastructure and use issues, the more pressing concern for most growers is how can we ensure we will get the water we need when we need it? And how can we improve margins when expenses like water and energy continue to increase?
Having a sustainable almond business is clearly more than just controlling energy and water costs Staying abreast of product innovations, technology changes, consumer tastes, and managing seasonal staffs are equally important. Essentially, ensuring that your almond operation will last into the next generation means having to do it all. Every day.
Solar Energy Monitoring vs. Whole Energy Management
Considering the complex challenges facing most almond businesses today, having one less thing to worry about would be a welcome invitation. Going solar is a great way to reduce your energy costs and cut carbon emissions. But installing a large, ground mount solar system – even one that eliminates your electricity bill altogether – in some ways is still just one more asset to manage.
Before you consider taking your business solar, one of the first questions to ask any solar provider is: How will you manage my energy use going forward?
Many solar companies are simply not prepared to help customers answer this question. They may talk about their ability to manage operations and maintenance, and that’s certainly valuable. They may say something about monitoring tools, and that’s a step in the right direction. But most solar monitoring tools measure only the system’s production. Solar monitoring tools do not have the capability to reconcile your solar production against your utility bill to determine if you’re getting the right net metering rate. They can’t tell you which business processes might be worth evaluating to determine if a slight shift in schedules could make or break your profitability.
To manage your energy, use as strategically as you do your almond crop requires an analysis of both your business operations and your energy use patterns. Only then can you arrive at the kind of energy approach that makes sense for your business.
The Right Questions to Ask About Energy Management
A proactive energy strategy starts with an honest conversation about your business, and the way you use energy. Here are four questions to ask yourself to get started:
- What are the most energy-intensive processes in your business?
- What kind of demand charges are you paying when you need to run your operation during expensive “time of use” periods?
- What changes are you willing to make in your operations to save on energy costs – while keeping production running at full speed?
- What role could solar and/or energy storage play to reduce your energy costs – and improve your environmental sustainability for today and over the decades to come?
Once these questions are answered, you can have a more productive conversation about the implications of saving energy and money. If you reduced your electricity bill by more than half, for example, would you be in a more secure position to pay for the water you need, and more resilient in the face of tremendous flux and change?
For an almond company, offsetting energy use with solar is a great way to enhance your environmental sustainability strategy. But to gain the full advantage of solar (or solar plus storage), an energy management strategy can mean the difference between surviving another year and sustaining your business through this generation – and the next.