In 2008, investors called brothers Mike and Manuel Monteiro asking them to sell or lease part of their 2,500-acre dairy operation for the installation of solar panels because of its proximity to a PG&E substation in Kings County, Calif.
When the recession hit and costs became a growing concern, Mike Monteiro decided to take another look at solar, as he explained in this video shot during a visit by participants in an AGCO media event at the Monteiro’s Lakeside Dairy.
“Because it’s such a large facility (3,500 cows), I knew I needed to figure out how we were going to produce electricity for this dairy,” said Monteiro. “This dairy at full build out now would have a summer time electricity bill of $35,000 a month if I didn’t have solar.”
Monteiro’s solar array has 3,240 solar panels covering four acres of his operation. The panels produce DC power which goes through two large inverters to send 480 volts of power to his meter at the dairy. Any electricity in excess of the dairy’s needs goes onto the Pacific Gas & Electric or PG&E grid through the nearby substation.
“My meter either runs forward or backwards,” he said. “On a nice sunny afternoon I’ll produce more electricity than I need, and my meter simply runs backwards. The extra power that I don’t use turns and goes out to the grid for PG&E’s use and for the neighbors to use. At night, the solar shuts down, and I draw back that electricity.”
The dairy is on a time-of-use rate with PG&E; that is, the rate is highest during periods of peak demand. With solar Monteiro “sells” power to PG&E when rates are around 16 cents to 17 cents per kwh and buys it back when rates are around 4 cents to 5 cents at night.
More of Monteiro’s electricity is generated in the summer months. During the winter months, the panels generate about half what they do in the summer.