Original Story from Capital Press

HUBBARD, Ore. — Northwest Hazelnut Co. has completed the installation of a 435-kilowatt solar power system that offsets 100 percent of the electricity the processing plant uses.

Company co-owner Larry George said the project, including the replacement of halogen lights in the facility with LEDs, ran up a bill of roughly $1 million. With the energy savings and government incentives, however, George plans to offset the costs within five years.

Northwest Hazelnut Co. is part of a network of facilities that process the Oregon Hazelnut harvest, and has three sister processing plants, according to its website.

As a result of going solar, Northwest Hazelnut Co. expects to save $1.6 million on its electricity bills over the next 25 years, said Jordan Sinn, Oregon Earthlight branch manager. The panels should have a lifespan of over 40 years.

The company partnered with Earthlight Technologies, a SunPower Elite Dealer, to install 1,000 E20-435W commercial panels. The 435-kilowatt system produces enough electricity to power about 40 average Oregon homes, David McClelland, senior program manager at Energy Trust of Oregon, said.

The cost of solar systems vary based on size and location, and there are state and federal incentives available for some businesses, McClelland said.

Northwest Hazelnuts held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 1 at the processing facility. The ceremony was attended by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

“It’s a great step forward for sustainability,” Brown said. “(Northwest Hazelnuts) is leading the way and impacting the future. They’re setting an example for Oregon agriculture.”

Hazelnuts rank 11th in farmgate value among Oregon’s agricultural commodities. Brown said she expects the rapidly expanding crop to shoot to fifth in the next couple of years.

“Thanks for investing in Hubbard, Marion County and Oregon Agriculture,” she said.

“SunPower’s reliable solar energy solutions coupled with Earthlight’s commercial experience and local presence were strong reasons why we decided to move forward on the project. And knowing this is a long-term investment, the robust warranty and higher efficiency panels were extremely important to us,” George said.

Earthlight Technologies was founded in 2008 as a family-owned and -operated business. Since 2012 the company has installed over 2.5 megawatts of solar PV in both residential and commercial sites, and has over 50 employees at its Ellington, Conn., and Silverton, Ore., offices.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.