Fresh Venture Foods (FVF), a joint venture between Babe Farms and Gold Coast Packaging, provides processing, packing, and shipping of fresh food in Santa Maria, California. Cold storage services are provided to growers of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and other vegetables throughout the region.

The FVF facility is comprised of 75,000 square feet of packing, storage, and processing space, and the facility was quickly filled to capacity. Company management had a challenge to overcome — the rising energy costs related to expanding operations.

In 2015, an extensive feasibility study was initiated in an effort to find the best way to control rising energy costs while also reducing the facility’s carbon footprint. Limited space availability precluded some generation options, such as solar, which would have required several acres of land. Brea, California-based Western Energy Systems (WES) stepped in and helped provide an efficient combined heat and power (CHP) solution.

FVF installed a natural gas trigeneneration plant. The system chosen was a containerized Jenbacher J312 engine with a 633-kW output of specialized heat recovery and emissions control system. The system provides hot water to an absorption chiller delivering up to 125 tons of high-quality chilling to supplement the plant cooling.

According to reps with WES, the trigeneration approach was necessary because conventional thermal loads at the site were not consistent enough to match to the thermal energy available from the generation unit, reducing its efficiency. The consultant on the project recommended a cold storage focused approach that made low-cost electricity, supplemental chilling from hot water, and additional hot water from the remaining available water heat. This allowed for better plant utilization and efficiency.

The CHP project has had several benefits for the FVF facility. First, local regulations dictated the need for a power plant that could meet some of the state’s most stringent air emissions standards, such as CARB 1110.2. This was easily met by using the Jenbacker system.

Also, overall efficiency of the plant exceeds 80%. This allowed the project to qualify for California’s Self Generation Incentive Program and helped FVF reduce its carbon footprint by at least 40%. As an added benefit, the customer has the option to configure the generation plant as a source of emergency power in the future.

The plant is operated by FVF while the Jenbacher generation system is maintained by WES with a 10-year, long-term service agreement. Reps with WES said the project is expected to have a simple payback of less than four years.