By George Harvey
We have great news from GrandyOats, in Hiram, Maine. The company is a certified organic and kosher food producer, specializing in grain products, including hot cereal, trail mix, granola, and nuts. Their products have long been hand-made and GMO-free. Now they are processed with no energy from fossil fuels in a net-zero facility.
GrandyOats was founded in 1979. In 1997, Nat Peirce purchased it from its founders, Sarah Carpenter and Penny Hood. He was joined by long-time friend Aaron Anker, who became a business partner in 2000. Both had backgrounds in the food industry, so GrandyOats was a natural for them.
As operators of a company specializing in healthful food, they have always been very environmentally aware. Their thinking has gone far beyond improving building efficiency and adding renewable energy. They understand the importance of reusing, re-purposing, and recycling wherever possible. When it came time to find a larger place to do business they looked for a good, used building. They were excited to find a closed elementary school.
They called in ReVision Energy to help make their energy as healthy as their granola. They did not want to make a token effort at renewable power, however. They wanted to do more. As they consulted with ReVision, they realized they had more opportunities than they had thought. And they were soon thinking, Aaron Anker said, “It would be really cool to go to 100%.” Very quickly, the goal was changed from one of solar power for electricity to solar power for all energy, including heat, processing energy, and more. They would not just add a few panels and do some insulation and weather sealing, they were going all-out.
This was not a simple proposition. GrandyOats used a lot of propane for their baking, and their ovens would have to be replaced with electric models. They had a propane-powered forklift. Heating could be done with electric heat pumps, improving comfort and reducing costs as side benefits. Of course, converting each of these things to electric power would require another increase in the size of their photovoltaic (PV) system.
The site for their array was part of what had once been an 8.5-acre ball field, pressed into service to provide space for their own solar system. ReVision Energy put 288 solar panels on the field in an 80.64 kW system. It is expected to produce an average of 95,622 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, reducing their costs below what they would have been, even with financing.
That array now supplies all of GrandyOats’ energy needs: lights, outlets for computers, heating, cooling, ovens, and even a battery-powered forklift. They are 100% powered by the sun, and 100% net-zero energy users. Their energy system offsets over 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
GrandyOats is the first net-zero food producer in New England, according to Phil Coupe, ReVision Energy’s co-founder. Aaron Anker commented on this with an obvious sense of satisfaction, “It’s really nice to do the right thing for our business and for our staff and our kids and the people in the community.” He went on, “I hope we can educate other producers out here to do the same things.”
GrandyOats products are available in stores all over the country. Among the stores carrying them are the Littleton (NH) Food Co-op and Middlebury (VT) Food Co-op, two Green Energy Times sponsors.
Both Nancy Rae Mallery, our editor, and I have tested GrandyOats products, and we agree. “Tasting the maple cashews is a moral imperative! Yummy!”
GrandyOats web site is www.grandyoats.com.
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