They grow fruit, and energy too

by Susan Gillin | Apr 28, 2017

Stemilt fruit company will be the largest solar producer in the county

Stemilt Growers is about to become the largest producer of solar power in Chelan County – fitting for one of the largest grower-packer-shippers of apples, cherries and pears in the country.

But the 100 solar panels planned for the roof of Stemilt’s new shipping facility won’t dominate the structure. The building will encompass a whopping 500,000 square feet.

Photo of Steve Edwards at Stemilt construction siteFour rows of 25 panels each will face southeast on a portion of the building, now under construction near Stemilt’s headquarters along Highway 97A, just north of Wenatchee. 

Steve Edwards, procurement manager (pictured right), estimated average production of 38,880 kilowatt hours per year – enough to power about 1 ½ homes.

That’s a drop in the picking bucket to Stemilt, one of the largest consumers of electricity in the county. But that doesn’t matter, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.  “Over the long term, I don’t know that anybody is really that certain” about power resources. “Solar might become more competitive than we think.  We definitely wanted to get our feet wet on this project to see what solar can do for us,” Pepperl said.

Solar fits well with the company’s environmental goals, he added, which incorporate energy efficiency, water conservation, organic farming and minimizing waste.

Edwards said solar power also is being incorporated into more remote instrument monitoring for farming.

Ellensburg Solar will install the Canadian-made solar PV modules and inverter. Edwards hopes to see solar power generated by summer or fall, although the new building probably won’t be finished until next spring.

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