The U.S. Green Building Council awarded a LEED Gold certification to the Limoneira Solar Project and Visitor Center, designed by architecture and engineering firm Interactive Resources, making it the first private sector LEED Gold project in Ventura County, California, U.S.
“The Visitor Center is an extremely simple and utilitarian structure that combines the functional role of sheltering banks of electrical switchgear and inverters with the interpretive role of a viewing platform with exhibits for visitors to see and understand how sustainable energy and agriculture join together to preserve rural land, protect jobs and reduce greenhouse gases,” said Tom Butt, president of Interactive Resources.
Limoneira, a 115-year-old California agricultural icon, is a global company whose mission is to preserve and promote its tradition, heritage and legacy in agriculture, community development and stewardship to maximize value for its shareholders. With prime agricultural land and operations throughout California, the company has more than 7000 acres (2833 hectares) in agricultural production of lemons, avocados, oranges, specialty citrus, pistachios, pluots and cherries.
Modern fruit production requires massive cold storage warehouses and that requires a lot of expensive electricity, the cost of which is both volatile and uncertain. Limoneira constructed a 1-MW solar photovoltaic generator next to its Santa Paula processing and storage facility, which accounts for more than one-third of the company's total energy usage, to ensure long-term stability in electrical costs.
In 2009, Limoneira was recognized with the Ventura County Board of Supervisors' Climate Change Action Award for its leadership in the use of clean, renewable energy sources. Supervisor Kathy Long, who was responsible for nominating Limoneira in the Agricultural Industry category, said “Limoneira is an amazing innovator. It's a model to our county, state, nation and the world of how to reduce carbon emissions and do business in a sustainable fashion.”
The Visitor Center incorporates numerous sustainable design elements that include a green roof (both a “cool” roof and a “green” planted roof), drought-tolerant landscaping, onsite disposal of both storm water and sanitary sewage, pervious concrete paving, daylighting, operable windows, low-water-use plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient lighting and recycled materials.
The associated solar array provides electrical power far beyond what the Visitor Center requires. The solar array covers 5.5 acres (2.2 hectares), and unlike typical ground-mounted arrays in California, the ground below the array has been planted with native grasses and wildflowers and miniature sheep will be used to graze it.
To date, the system has eliminated nearly 3 million lbs (1350 metric tons) of greenhouse gases.
Visit www.limoneira.comto monitor the status of the solar system in real time.
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