Microgrid technology promising greater energy flexibility and independence arrived in Kern Wednesday with the start of construction on an integrated power generation and storage system at an 1,100-employee ag facility in Arvin.
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 $12 million 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 percent.
"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.
Nathan noted the inclusion of natural gas as "firm power" adds a backup source while also producing heat that can be incorporated into the plant's refrigeration units, thereby offsetting cooling costs.