From: Sanford Nax, The Fresno Bee
Published June 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Rebates Encourage Businesses to Try Alternative Sources of Energy

With energy costs of $1.5 million per year, Pat Ricchiuti has a strong incentive to reduce the power bill at his business.

So, the owner of P-R Farms is installing what is believed to be the largest, privately financed solar-energy system in the state at his Clovis packinghouse.

The $6.4 million system features 7,730 solar panels -- each 3 feet, 4 inches by 4 feet -- on the roof of his 150,000-square-foot packinghouse. Ricchiuti's investment after state rebates was $3.2 million for the 1-megawatt system.

"It was the right thing to do," said Ricchiuti, president of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Ricchiuti unveiled the new system to state energy officials after a summit at the University of California center in Fresno.

Joe Desmond, the governor's deputy secretary of energy, outlined the administration's energy policy at the meeting.

Desmond also issued a forecast on predicted power supplies this summer, saying they should be adequate.

It was the seventh energy summit held in California since last month. About 900 people, including 100 on Thursday, have attended the sessions.

Desmond and others toured P-R Farms and learned more about Ricchiuti's system.

Ricchiuti said he considered natural gas and cogenerationt determined solar was the most energy-efficient power source.

The new system will provide a little more than 50 percent of his packinghouse's power needs at peak capacity. P-R Farms processes about 1.5 million packages of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, oranges and apples a year.

With the 50 percent rebate, Ricchiuti will recoup his investment in about 11 years. With no rebate, it would have taken 20 years, and Ricchiuti would not have done the project, he said.

Having an operation that size convert to solar energy fits Gov. Schwarzenegger's 10-point energy policy.

Desmond and other speakers stressed the importance of conservation.

Allison Quaid, project manager for the Flex Your Power campaign, discussed the benefits of using appliances before 2 p.m. or after 7 p.m., setting air-conditioning thermostats at 78 degrees and turning off unnecessary lights.

Perry Christensen, vice president of community-building for United Way, said his nonprofit agency saves $454 a month by using energy-efficient lights.

"Four hundred and fifty four dollars to a small nonprofit is huge," he said. "Small steps can benefit both the bottom line of an organization and the community."

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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