Uesugi Farms Nearly Doubles Solar Capacity to Meet Growth Needs

February 7th, 2017
Aerial view of Uesugi Farms solar installation.

Uesugi Farms, a leading second-generation supplier known for their year-round peppers, Napa cabbage and other fresh produce, expanded their solar farm with an additional capacity of 602kW installed by their longtime partner, Vista Solar. With this recent solar expansion, Uesugi Farms’ combined system of 1.4 megawatts is expected to generate 2,092,939 kW per year, enough to power over 3,750 California homes while eliminating 910,428 pounds of CO2!

Uesugi Farms first went solar in 2013, after five years of exploring the options and searching for the right partner. They found California-based Vista Solar and partnered with them to install a solar array on 12 acres of unfarmable land on their property.

“We tried multiple times – without success – to grow crops in a waterlogged section of our farm. When Vista brought up the possibility of using that fallow patch to farm sunlight instead of crops, we realized we were looking at the future home of our solar farm,” said Pete Aiello, General Manager at Uesugi Farms.

Uesugi worked with Vista to install 792 kW capacity in 2013, but after continuous business growth, an increase in cooling capacity and the decision to generate ice onsite to cool their sweet corn, they were no longer offsetting 100% of their power consumption. Their recent 602 kW expansion was installed on that same 12 acres and is adjacent to the initial installation.

“It’s rewarding to see smart, sustainable businesses thrive with Vista Solar’s solutions. Since the first project in 2013, Uesugi Farms has experienced substantial growth. This phase two project will help address the facility’s rapidly growing energy needs for years to come. It’s been a pleasure working with Pete and the Santa Clara Farm Bureau, and I’m excited to see what Uesugi Farms will do next with the increased solar savings,” said Brian Brogan, Senior Project Developer at Vista Solar.

“Prior to 2013, we were taking the corn we grow to a third party cooler in Salinas to do the icing and storage for us, but we wanted to ship the corn from our own facility along with our other products and the economics made sense. It takes a lot of electricity to generate 100 tons of ice every day, which is why we needed to expand our solar footprint and harness that energy to remain near 100% offset,” said Aiello.

The energy combined from phases one and two will offset their total electricity usage by 99.5% and electrical bill by 83%. The family-owned company plans to use their annual savings of $236k to invest in the continued expansion of their operations.

“With our growing operation getting bigger we’ll need more trucks, tractors and harvesting equipment. We also have future plans to expand our cold storage, construct another packing line and build a new sales and shipping office, so all of these savings from going solar will help us achieve those goals and improve our overall business,” said Aiello.

Aside from solar usage, other sustainable methods Uesugi practices include drip irrigation and use of organic compounds. They’re also investigating usage of recycled water, once their water district installs a pipeline delivering recycled water to south Santa Clara County.