YCH Installs Largest Solar Array in State

On August 31, 2020, an Ellensburg Solar technician installed solar panels on the roof of a YCH building in Sunnyside. PHOTO COURTESY OF YCH

In August, Yakima Chief Hops, a 100% farmer-owned hop supplier for the brewing industry and a Benton REA member, announced its latest solar panel installation. YCH now has 3,706 solar panels, the largest rooftop solar array in Washington state.

YCH has offices located across the globe, but the company’s headquarters are based in Yakima, which is known as the hop capital of the world. Surrounded by hop fields of local family farms, YCH has multiple facilities across the valley, including Sunnyside, which is partially served with Benton REA’s electricity.

With longer days unique to the Pacific Northwest and a passion for sustainability, YCH used these buildings to house its own solar project. YCH’s solar array spans six buildings in Sunnyside, covering 70,000 square feet with 3,706 solar panels that produce 1,414,766 kilowatt-hours of  electricity annually.

YCH captures 15% of their entire electricity demand and offsets annual emissions by 1,000 metric tons, equivalent to providing 170 homes with electricity for one year.

“At YCH, we aim to make more of an impact by making less of one,” Levi Wyatt says, corporate social responsibility coordinator at YCH. “Our operations utilize a significant amount of energy, and we are committed to finding ways to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels and finite resources.  We also believe in using our business to inspire and influence  environmental solutions.”

YCH partnered with Ellensburg Solar to complete the solar array  installation. The first panel was installed in 2016. Benton REA worked with  YCH to connect 793 kw of solar panels. The others are connected to Pacific Power & Light’s electrical grid.

To date, YCH has invested more than $2 million in renewable energy solutions as it works towards energy independence.

Additionally, YCH  teamed up with Benton REA and Pacific Power & Light to conduct an energy management assessment. YCH will begin  implementation of a 1.2 million kWh energy savings uncovered during the  assessment. The hop supplier is working to replace its U.S.-based facilities’ lighting with 100% LED or CFL bulbs by 2022.

Renewable Energy Incentives

YCH received federal tax credits and Washington state incentives for a portion of the Sunnyside solar installation. The state program has met its cap, and new systems are not eligible for these savings. However, Benton REA commercial and residential members will still receive net metering benefits for their renewable energy systems.

Benton REA stays informed on current legislation and will announce when future state incentives are available to members.

“Benton REA allows and supports solar systems,” says Ron Mitchell, electrical adviser for Benton REA. “However, there are regulations we have to follow and there are limits to what members can do.”

A Bright Future

YCH is looking at ways to use more renewables within its operations. Levi says they plan to install new solar panels each year until they reach  maximum capacity.

“Dream big,” Levi says. “This can be a very daunting task at first glance, but using the right resources can really help companies identify proper  channels to make this dream a reality.”

He encourages businesses to take advantage of federal solar tax credits, which helped reduce the cost of YCH’s installation by 26%.

“I would strongly encourage those interested in looking into solar panels to do research and reach out to your local power utility providers to assist in the implementation process,” Levi says.

To learn more about YCH’s sustainability initiatives, visit yakimachief.com/corporate-social-responsibility.

To learn more about Benton REA’s renewable energy program, visit BentonREA.org/RenewableEnergy.

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