Fresh Venture Foods (FVF), a joint venture between Babe Farms and Gold Coast Packing, provides fresh food processing, packing, and shipping services in Santa Maria, California. The company also provides cold storage services for farmers who grow broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and other vegetables throughout the region.

In order to serve their clients, FVF operates a 75,000-square-foot facility. As the company continued to grow, the facility management team was presented with a critical challenge: to overcome the rising energy costs related to their expanding operations.

In 2015, an extensive feasibility study was initiated in an effort to identify the best way for FVF to control its rising energy costs and simultaneously reduce its carbon footprint. Limited space availability precluded some generation options like solar, which would have required several acres of land. Western Energy Systems (WES) stepped in and suggested an efficient combined heat and power (CHP) solution. Also referred to as cogeneration, CHP plants are able to recover otherwise wasted heat and put it to use elsewhere in the facility, which results in both energy and cost savings.

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

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 overall efficiency. The consultant recommended a cold storage-focused approach that made efficient, low-cost electricity; supplemental chilling from hot water; and additional hot water from the remaining available waste heat. This allowed for better plant utilization and efficiency.

Local air regulations dictated the need for a power plant that could meet some of the state’s most stringent air emissions standards — California Air Resources Board (CARB) 1110.2 — which was easily met with the Jenbacher system.

Overall efficiency of the plant exceeds 80%, which allowed the project to qualify for California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program and has 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 service agreement. The project is expected to have a return on investment period of less than four years.