Dollars and Sense: Solar Power for Today, Tomorrow

October 28, 2015 09:45 AM
Dollars and Sense: Solar Power for Today, Tomorrow


Katrina Curti Rainey
Tulare, Calif.

The Raineys milk 550 Jerseys at Rainimade Dairy. Katrina helps her dad with his 2,800-cows at nearby Curtimade Dairy.


At Rainimade, we milk Jerseys which have a smaller carbon footprint no matter how you look at it. They are a smaller animal unit which means they eat less and in turn excrete less.

This helps us be more efficient with our feed along with fewer emissions over all. We are also able to feed a lower protein diet due to the metabolic efficiency of a Jersey.

A larger project that I helped out with at Curtimade Dairy, Inc. is the almost four acres of ground-mounted single axis solar power system (719 kilowatt DC) that was installed about four years ago. It was estimated to have an energy savings of $145,000/year, but it is closer to $200,000 annually.

The solar site is fed by two of the main meters on the facility: The milk barn meter and another which is close by. We scaled it to only 80% of our needs for those 2 meters, knowing that the panels would be more efficient than expected. They are producing close to 95% of the dairy’s needs for those 2 meters.

The solar power system produces over 1,420,000 kilowatt hours annually, providing energy during peak hours of the day, when electricity loads and prices are at the highest. It produces enough electricity to power 130 average American homes year after year. It also reduces greenhouse gases by 27,000 tons over the 25-year warranted life of the solar panels. And it is equivalent to removing 192 cars from our congested highway yearly.

rainey_pricesWe chose single axis ground mount solar system because they are about 25% more efficient then the stationary panels and require less ground and panels for the same amount of energy produced. We chose solar in general as an investment to hedge against rising electricity costs and as a long-term strategy to help be able to maintain our business for generations to come. The solar site is silent and very low maintenance.

We rinse the panels every couple weeks to minimize the dust; they are serviced on an annual basis. We are so pleased with our first solar installation that we are now in the process of expanding and adding an additional 600 kW DC unit.

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