We operate Real Pickles out of a 100% solar powered, energy-efficient, 6,500 square foot organic pickling facility on Wells Street in Greenfield, MA.
In 2009, we purchased a century-old industrial building in Greenfield, MA and transformed it into our own pickling facility. Never before used for food production, the building required significant renovations to make it both well-suited for certified organic food production and as energy-efficient as possible. In addition to our local bank, we received important financing help from Franklin County Community Development Corporation and Equity Trust.
We use just over half of our 12,000 square foot building for Real Pickles. The remaining portion we lease to another socially responsible business: Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics, a worker-owned cooperative installing renewable energy systems throughout the region. (Great neighbors!)
Our facility includes:
- A simple kitchen, where we prepare the vegetables for fermentation in barrels and hand-pack our finished pickles into glass jars (there is no heating equipment because all of our products are raw);
- A small office and lobby area, where we conduct all of our office activities and also enjoy lunch together as a staff;
- Two temperature-controlled warehouse areas, where our pickles undergo fermentation in barrels; and
- An energy-efficient walk-in refrigerator, where we store our finished pickles once they are packed and ready for sale.
Built in 1910, the main section of the 12,000 square foot building is of beautiful heavy timber frame construction with a huge skylight (16'x7') near the center. When we purchased the building, these features were hidden behind a myriad of interior walls and a suspended ceiling. One of the most exciting aspects of the renovation process was removing these barriers to create our warehouse spaces, thereby revealing the original posts and beams.
Minimal Energy Use:
A key first step in our efforts to minimize our facility-related energy use was our decision to "re-use" an existing building rather than build a brand new structure. Building new consumes significant amounts of energy (and other resources). We chose to purchase and renovate an under-utilized commercial property in Greenfield, and our business' overall ecological footprint is lower as a result.
We also made many energy efficiency improvements to the building to reduce our on-going ecological footprint. A $15,000 USDA REAP grant as well as rebates from our electric and gas utilities were essential in making the project affordable. We are proud of the results and feel that we have a truly energy-efficient facility in which to produce our Real Pickles products.
Our key energy-efficiency improvements include:
- Super efficient lighting throughout the facility, including low wattage T8 fluorescents in the low ceiling areas and high output T5 fluorescents in the warehouses;
- Occupancy sensors on most lighting fixtures and photo sensors on those fixtures adjacent to our main skylight, to keep our lights operating only when they are needed;
- On-demand, tankless, gas-powered water heater;
- A Freeaire system for our walk-in refrigerator which utilizes outside air during the winter months to keep things cool and controls the mechanical components for optimal efficiency, reducing our cooler's electric usage by an estimated 60%;
- R40 insulation in the ceiling of our main fermentation warehouse and ceiling-mounted circulation fans in both warehouses, to make the most of the heat generated in those spaces.
We are excited to be supplying 100% of our facility's electricity with solar panels installed on our rooftop!
Our efforts to maximize our energy efficiency during the initial facility renovations resulted in energy requirements that are remarkably small for a commercial facility the size of ours. In 2011, we turned our efforts toward deriving as much of our remaining energy usage as possible from clean, renewable forms.
We hired Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics (our neighbor) to install a 17.6 kW photovoltaic system on the roof above our kitchen and office area. Our annual electric usage - powering our lights, walk-in cooler, and office and kitchen equipment - is about 17,400 kWh. Our solar panels annually produce over 18,000 kWh!
By making our facility 100% solar powered, we have taken a small but important step as a business to help move our society forward in pursuit of cleaner air, greater community self-reliance, and a more stable global climate.