Founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith
Founded in 1998 by experienced Bay Area restaurateurs Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, Cowgirl Creamery makes award-winning organic cheeses and sells them and other local artisan cheeses at their own retail outlets and other specialty food retailers.
Peggy and Sue are committed to promoting local farmers, artisan cheese-makers, and other local businesses and have made this local focus a key part of their brand. "We think knowing where the food is grown is just as important as knowing that the food was organically grown. The consumer should know what kind of farm it's being grown on, the scale of the farm, and whether or not it's a local farm."
Cowgirl Creamery makes all their cheeses at the renovated barn in Pt. Reyes Station from organic milk from Straus Creamery in Petaluma. Also in the Pt. Reyes Station barn are the offices of Marin Organics, a trade association of local area organic producers and a few other local tenants, but the primary user of power is Cowgirl Creamery's cheese-making operation, which was spending over $22,000 a year on electricity. With Pt. Reyes Station's coastal fog, the barn's limited southern exposure, and a roof littered with four-foot tall wind vents which cast significant shade on the roof, there was considerable question as to how much of Cowgirl Creamery's electric bill, if any, could be eliminated.
After addressing concerns regarding PV production in more foggy areas based on Sunlight Electric's experience with smaller residential systems in similar locations, we turned to the challenge of overcoming the shading issue of the roof turbine vents. For guidance, we consulted Jon Fernandes of JSF Architects, the architect who designed the Pt Reyes Station barn renovation and also a tenant.
Two-tiered design of the barn
We presented a variety of solutions to Jon, all of which incorporated a novel solution to deal with the tall wind vents - we would replace them with low-profile solar powered vents to be installed under the larger PV array.
Further, we proposed a design that followed the two-tiered design of the barn, on the roof and on the skylight area created by JSF during the barn renovation.
Record rainfall in the winter and spring of 2006 presented considerable delays in getting started on the installation but Travalini Construction of El Sobrante made progress nonetheless. First, they installed stainless steel hanger bolts on the corrugated steel roof deck. Then, after pouring a concrete pad for the inverter, they installed the inverter and ran the code-compliant galvanized steel conduit from the ground to the roof. With the end of the rains, Travalini made fast progress, installing the 252 Sanyo 200-watt modules and wiring them in place. After the predicted three weeks worth of work - interspersed during nearly six weeks of intermittent rain - Travalini completed the installation, passed the Marin County inspection, and showed off a little when they demonstrated to Sue and the other Cowgirls that their meter was running backwards.
The end result was, by eliminating the tall roof vents and using all available space, Cowgirl Creamery's electric bill for the Pt. Reyes Station cheese-making operation was reduced by 55%. But perhaps equally important as the financial benefits are the marketing and social benefits. With the Pt. Reyes Station barn being such a popular stop for tourists from near and far, the Cowgirl's photovoltaic system has quickly become a popular topic of conversation with visitors and the retail staff. Since this system will prevent the emission of over 70,000 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution each year, the equivalent of planting 10 acres of trees, there's plenty to talk about.
For more information about how Sunlight Electric can help your business be more sustainable, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-GET-SOLAR.