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Dairy farm moves closer to becoming net-zero energy

Family cheese maker installs California's largest privately owned dairy solar array.

Joseph Gallo Farms, maker of Joseph Farms Cheese, unveiled a new two-megawatt (MW) solar array, the largest privately owned system ever installed on a California dairy. The fixed-array system supplies renewable energy on site for the family’s dairy farm.

“Sustainable farming has been a core value in our family, starting with my grandfather, Joseph Gallo,” third-generation dairy farmer and cheese maker Peter Gallo said. “We’ve envisioned integrating solar energy on the farm for as long as I can remember, and today is a step towards greater sustainability.”

By harvesting the sun’s power on 7,840 solar panels across eight acres, the fixed-array system provides on-site renewable energy that will significantly reduce the operation's need for electricity from the local utility and avoid an estimated 27,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years. The amount of electricity produced could power 282 average homes a year.

“This project aligns with the work we’ve been doing for 13 years to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to green, renewable energy that is generated right here on our farm,” Gallo said.

In addition to the new solar array, Joseph Gallo Farms also operates one of the largest and longest-running methane digesters in California. The electricity produced is then used on site to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while decreasing the farm’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“Our new solar array meets about half of our energy needs for our dairy and farming operations,” Gallo said. “Partnered with our existing methane digester, we’re moving closer to becoming a net-zero energy dairy farm and cheese plant, continuing a long tradition of pioneering renewable energy deployment and sustainability practices.”

SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar power provider, installed the solar array system.

“Joseph Gallo Farms has long been a leader in sustainable dairy farming and cheese-making, especially when it comes to producing and utilizing renewable, green energy,” said Erik Fogelberg, SolarCity’s senior vice president of commercial pv and storage solutions. “We are proud to help further expand that capability and meet their environmental goals, all while helping them save on their energy costs.”

Gallo’s vision of complete sustainability has transitioned from a single project to an overall program, and while the solar array is the latest step, it’s certainly not the last for the farm.

“We’re always looking to the future to improve our environmental performance on the farm and at the cheese plant. It’s our family’s commitment to our customers, neighbors and planet,” Gallo said.

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