Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis., announced that the construction of three community solar projects totaling 12.67 MWdc is complete, making the cooperative what is said to be the largest food company in the world to be 100% renewably powered. These solar projects are part of the 32 MWdc Butter Solar Portfolio, which is owned and operated by BluEarth Renewables US, Canada.
To reach its 100% renewable electricity commitment set forth in 2017, Organic Valley collaborated with OneEnergy Renewables, Seattle, Wash., and a group of Midwestern municipal utilities referred to as the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group (UMMEG). In late 2018, BluEarth Renewables acquired Butter Solar, and began construction in January. Butter Solar will provide 23,000 people across 10 Midwest communities, including six in Organic Valley’s project portfolio, with reduced energy costs for more than 25 years through projects in or near their community.
“Our community solar partnership allows us to share the benefits of solar energy with our rural neighbors, advancing our mission to care for the people and farms we work with, as well as our planet,” says Bob Kirchoff, chief executive officer of Organic Valley. “Just as ours has done, community-scale solar projects can also create meaningful and good-paying jobs where they are needed most.”
“With the construction of the entire Butter Solar Portfolio nearing completion, we are proud to partner with organizations such as Organic Valley and make these valuable solar projects a reality for the local communities,” says Jamey Fitzgibbon, executive vice president, engineering and construction for BluEarth Renewables. “As we add more renewable energy to the power grid every day, we are committed to creating a more sustainable environment for generations to come.”
In addition to the economic benefits of these municipal solar projects, the sites will feature grazing sheep and pollinator habitats under the panels. Organic Valley is also developing new projects and partnerships that aim to help rural American farms increase their sustainability, both financially and environmentally.
For the next 25 years, Organic Valley will buy renewable energy credits (RECs) from three solar projects, owned and operated by BluEarth Renewables, to help support the project and keep electricity prices low. Other organizations, including Dr. Bronner’s, the City of Madison, Lime, and Native Energy will also buy RECs from their own project or groups of projects as part of a shared commitment to lower their carbon footprint.
“It was the combined financial impact of all the REC partners that enabled the projects to be financially viable; scaling up is what made this possible,” says Stanley Minnick, energy services and technology manager of Organic Valley.