Tehama County, California
Solar Pecan Drying System
Section 9006 Grant: $25,250
Dried fruits and nuts are a multi-billion dollar industry for California growers. The drying process requires natural gas or propane and has exacting standards to meet processor quality requirements. With the abundant sunshine in California, solar drying would seem to be a perfect fit.
Garry Vance farms 62 acres of pecans at Korina Farms, and he dries nuts from his farm and from other growers. Seeking to reduce his high propane costs, he built a new drying facility and incorporated a 5,000 square foot SolarWall™ system into its roof. This system is essentially a roof-mounted metal box which captures the radiant heat of the sun to warm the ambient air in the box. The system then circulates the warm air through the nuts. On sunny days, the system warms the outside air by 20 degrees, providing the optimal drying temperature of 80 degrees.
Korina Farms received a $25,250 Section 9006 grant to help fund the project, which cost a total of $200,000. Korina Farms also received support from the California Air Resources Board. At current propane prices, the project will save over $10,000 in energy costs per year.
This is the first solar pecandrying facility in the country and is one of several demonstration solar fruit and nut drying projects in California. The challenge in making this investment pay off is the short, but critical, drying season for these crops. By adapting it to other nut crops grown on neighboring farms, Korina Farms maximizes the system’s use during the year and also generates more revenue for the farm.