Northwest Hazelnut Company builds solar array, becoming a first in its industry

SUBMITTED PHOTO: GREG LEO - (Pictured from right) Shaun and Larry George, owners of Northwest Hazelnut, tour the thousand-panel solar array with Gov. Kate Brown at the Northwest Hazelnut processing plant in Hubbard. 
Northwest Hazelnut Company, located in Hubbard, is now the world's first 100-percent solar-powered hazelnut processing facility.

The company's recently completed solar array, which was celebrated with a Sept. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the company's main processing plant, offsets 100 percent of the site's total energy usage.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Gov. Kate Brown, who held up the company as an example of sustainable agriculture in Oregon.

"Northwest Hazelnut is one of many examples that prove that Oregon can be a meaningful part of the solution to the global climate challenge, while creating jobs and boosting our economy," Brown said. "This is a proud moment for rural Oregon and our agricultural sector."SUBMITTED PHOTO: GREG LEO - Brown cuts the ribbon for the solar array, which offsets all of the plant's energy use. Pictured from right to left: Jordan Sinn of Earthlight Technologies; Shaun George; Polly Owen, director of the Oregon Hazelnut Commission; Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron; Barb Yates, Fererro representative; Gov. Brown; Rep. Rick Lewis; and Larry George.

Northwest Hazelnut Company's thousand-panel array now produces nearly 549,200 kilowatt-hours of power per year, which completely offsets the processing plant's power usage, according to the company.

"We've upgraded our facilities to make them energy efficient and nearly eliminate our carbon footprint," Larry George, the company's vice president, said in a press release. "With the completion of our solar array, Oregon is now leading the world in sustainable growing, packing and processing for the hazelnut industry."

According to the press release, the demand for sustainable practices in the hazelnut industry comes from major manufacturers in the chocolate and ingredient industries, including companies like Ferrero, the maker of Nutella and Ferrero Rocher and the largest buyer of hazelnuts in the world.

Barb Yates, a representative from Ferrero, spoke at the ribbon-cutting.

"Our company works very closely with a worldwide network of suppliers to build an environmentally sustainable supply from farm to table," Yates said. "I came here today to congratulate Northwest Hazelnut and George Packing for achieving a huge first in our industry."

Oregon produces 99 percent of the country's hazelnut crop, and about 50 percent of the crop is exported each year. According to Northwest Hazelnut, the state's hazelnut industry is experiencing rapid growth and production is expected to triple in size in the next seven years.

"Hazelnuts are (among) Oregon's top 11 agricultural products. We are expecting the sector to shoot up to No. 5 in the next few years," Brown said. "Northwest Hazelnut is part of a quickly growing industry that will strengthen Oregon's economic network."

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by about 150 people. In attendance were elected officials including Brown, state Rep. Rick Lewis, Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, Aurora Mayor Bill Graupp, Donald Mayor Rick Olmstead, St. Paul Mayor Kim Wallis and former state Sen. Chip Shields. Also in attendance were representatives from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and leaders from the hazelnut and solar energy industries.

The ribbon-cutting came soon before the start of the hazelnut harvesting season, which occurs in late September or early October.

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