Arvin Potato Plant Orders Kern’s First Microgrid to Boost Energy Efficiency
Microgrid technology, promising greater energy flexibility and independence, is being installed at a 1,100-employee potato processing plant in Arvin, which began the construction on an integrated power generation and storage system. The 5-megawatt solar, natural gas and battery installation Concentric Power Inc. is building at Tasteful Selections’ specialty potato plant will use advanced computer systems to increase efficiency and allow the operation to continue during external disruptions to its power.
Touted as the first such system in the county, the USD12m project kicked off engineering almost a year and a half ago. Solar panels went up between November and January, and the installation is expected to become fully operational by fall, cutting the plant’s power bill by an estimated 40%.
Microgrids have become more popular in recent years as wider adoption of photovoltaic solar panels and batteries has increased demand for systems that can effectively coordinate them.
Senior executives at Tasteful Selections said the project will keep the lights on and refrigerators running when power goes out around the plant, which they said has happened in the past for three or more hours at a time.
Losing electricity for even four hours can cause product degradation, they said, and an outage lasting days could cost millions of dollars in damage to the miniature potatoes it washes, stores and packages for shipment.
“We always knew we needed to add something” to ensure energy resiliency, said the company’s chief operating officer, Nathan Bender. His father, CEO Bob Bender, said the company expects to pay off the microgrid’s cost within four to five years.