Pacific Ethanol to Install 5 MW Solar Energy System

Lizzy Schultz

unknown-2 Pacific Ethanol, Inc. has announced the purchase and installment plans for a new 5 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) power system at its Madera, California biorefinery that produces ethanol, wet distiller grains and corn oil.

The solar plant will be located adjacent to the Pacific Ethanol industrial facility, which currently sits on 137 acres in Madera County, California. The 5 MW solar PV system is projected to reduce the Madera facility’s annual utility costs by over $1 million and is expected to be cash flow positive from year one. The system also qualifies for the Energy Investment Tax Credit.

“The integration of solar power at our Madera plant underscores our commitment to optimize our plant assets, lower the carbon intensity of our ethanol and reduce our operating costs,” says Neil Koehler, president and CEO of Pacific Ethanol. “We are proud to build the first ever commercial solar electricity system at a U.S. ethanol plant. Pending the completion of interconnection agreements with our local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., we expect to begin operating the solar PV system at full capacity in early 2018.”

The system will be designed and installed by Borrego Solar, and $10 million of the project cost will be financed by CleanFund, which provides capital for projects in the renewable energy industry using the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing framework.

“Pacific Ethanol represents the new generation of fuel companies — low carbon fuel production powered by zero carbon energy,” says Mike Hall, CEO of Borrego Solar. “This will be one of the largest single-site net metered projects in PG&E territory. Historically these types of projects were limited to a single megawatt, but given the recent CPUC NEM 2.0 ruling, large energy users are now able to go above that threshold and offset a significantly larger portion of their overall usage. In addition, by financing this project through PACE, Pacific Ethanol is able to retain full ownership of the system from day one and capture the tax incentives afforded to solar system owners.”

Ag group, Clean Energy, Ethanol, Facilities, Solar