Video: Milking the sun, dairy takes on solar cogeneration

With a solar facility on its fleet maintenance center, diesel trucks that have been converted to cold plate technology and the use of a freon-based cooling system instead of ammonia, San Francisco Bay Area dairy Clover Stornetta Farms is no stranger to sustainable business practices.

The Petaluma, Calif.-based business works with a few dozen family-owned local dairies to process between 60,000-75,000 gallons of milk a day.

While the company had made several strides in recent years towards sustainability in its dairy processing plant, it was still looking for ways to lower its water and electricity use, as well as lower its carbon emissions, according to Joanie Benedetti Claussen, whose grandfather Gene Benedetti formed Clover Stornetta in 1977.

In June, Clover Stornetta became the first dairy in the U.S. to generate electricity and hot water through a hybrid solar technology known as cogeneration. The system was designed and manufactured by 3-year-old Silicon Valley startup Cogenra Solar based in Mountain View, Calif.

It’s the latest company across a number of businesses and organizations -- including Clover Stornetta's peers in the beverage industry – to install a Cogenra solar cogeneration system. In April, the Kendall Jackson Winery in Napa, Calif., installed its array. In March, the Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii announced announced plans to get a Cogenra system in place. And the Sonoma Wine Company debuted its array in 2010.

The Department of Defense, international hotels, Facebook (which uses it for its employee gym) and universities also use a Cogenra solar cogeneration system.

Photo of cow courtesy of Clover Stornetta Farms

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