Perdue Farm's chickens go cluck cluck for solar panels

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Perdue, a major supplier of chicken in the eastern U.S., is adding solar power to two of its sites in Maryland. The company signed a power-purchase agreement with Washington Gas Energy Services, Inc., allowing them to install 3.7 megawatts of photovoltaics on Perdue property and to sell the farm the power produced under a 15-year power-purchase agreement.

The 91-year-old, family-owned company made the decision because it is expected to produce long-term savings.

“When we ran the numbers, we saw that by having a long-term deal with a supplier of electricity, we could lower energy costs over life of the project,” said Perdue spokesperson Luis Luna. “It means a way for us to control our energy costs going forward.”

In a press release, Steve Schwalb, Perdue’s vice president of environmental sustainability said, “Using solar power means, we’ll have a clean-energy source that doesn’t pollute or create greenhouse gases, while lowering Perdue’s energy costs.”

The 11,000 panels at the installations will produce about a quarter of the energy used at Perdue’s Salisbury, Md., headquarters and at its feed mill in Bridgeville, Del.

“We’re calculating on a very conservative basis,” said Luna. “At peak production, it will produce about 90 percent [of the power needed]. Some days we’ll be producing over 100 percent.”

The electricity produced by the photovoltaic arrays is expected to reduce Perdue’s carbon footprint by 3,000 tons per year, according to Schwalb. He said that’s equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions of 300,000 gallons of gasoline annually.
This isn’t the company’s first foray into sustainability, said Luna.

“It’s been a focus of the founder and their children to do business in a way that’s right or sustainable,” Luna said. “The company has always been frugal and has been about using resources wisely and trying to be good stewards. Stewardship is one of the tenants of the company.”

Standard Solar Inc. is installing the arrays, which should start this September.

The ground-mounted arrays will cover an area of equal to roughly 10 football fields. The majority will be at the Delaware site, but the company said nearly half will be built at Perdue’s corporate offices in Salisbury and will be visible to the public.

Image courtesy of NREL.