PATTERSON — Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group unveiled the new solar panel system on its Patterson warehouse April 10, the largest solar system in the Turlock Irrigation District. The company’s CEO Chris Murphy said it’s a move he’s been wanting to make for years.
“I’ve wanted to do this for eight, nine years, and it was just out of our reach,” Murphy said. “Rodda Electric came to us with a plan that let us get as much energy as we could out of the roof. Then we were able to make that decision to go for it.”
The system consists of 100,000 square feet of solar panels that generate 835 kilowatts of electricity, or about 46 percent of Sierra Pacific’s needs — a huge savings for a warehouse that stores frozen food and whose electric bills are between $80,000 and $100,000 a month.
“The other thing that makes it unique for us is as a frozen warehouse, our power demands are really constant,” Murphy said. When this system’s working the hardest is when we’re getting the most off the roof, and that’s when the region has most of their demand. So when we’re at full production, we actually help the area electricity grid.”
Rodda Electric, out of Brentwood, installed the system. Murphy said the company worked with Sierra Pacific to maximize energy efficiency, which was key in the warehouse group’s decision to move on solar now.
Sierra Pacific celebrated the new solar system with a luncheon attended by dozens of employees and dignitaries including Sierra Pacific president Michael McNulty, Rep. Jeff Denham, District 21 Assemblyman Adam Gray, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, Stanislaus Business Alliance CEO David White, Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth and Patterson Mayor Luis Molina.
Denham told the group that the Sierra Pacific project was an example of the potential for energy independence in the Central Valley.
“Here in the Central Valley, between our hydro-electricity with our many irrigation districts, the wind power that we have coming over the Altamont and now the huge, growing projects that we’re having with solar, we have an ability like no other to be energy independent here utilizing our own resources,” Denham said.
Murphy said supporting the growth of solar power was one of the reasons the company decided to invest in it.
“Ethically it’s the right thing. Environmentally it’s the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “I believe that we need energy independence.”
According to Murphy, the company at first thought the new system would pay for itself in about a decade, but with energy costs rising, he said he now believes it will be sooner.
Murphy advises other companies thinking about installing solar systems to move ahead.
“Do the math because the systems are getting cheaper,” Murphy said. “The panels are getting efficient. The inverters are getting more efficient. You don’t know where we’re going to be with hydro or gas. I mean, there’s a lot of unpredictable things in this market and so the one thing off the top of your roof is really predictable and you can manage it.”