Denali, a nationwide provider of organic waste management services, has helped commission the activation of a solar array and integrated microgrid with battery storage capabilities at its Imperial Western Products (IWP) facility in Coachella, California.The company gathered March 10 with state and local leaders, including representatives from the California Energy Commission (CEC), celebrating the investment in “new infrastructure that makes food waste diversion in Southern California more resilient and sustainable.”Denali says the new system allows the facility to continue operations even when there are regional blackouts and will provide enough power to cover one-third of the electricity used at the facility. Operations at IWP center around “recycling food waste into useful products,” according to Denali.Present at the event were representatives from the offices of Rep. Raul Ruiz, California Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Energy Commission and members of the Coachella City Council.
“Imperial Western Products’ renewable energy project reduces energy and operating costs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the load on California’s electricity grid,” said Claire Sweeney, associate energy specialist at the CEC, who represented the commission at the event.
The Coachella facility handles hundreds of thousands of tons each year of agricultural waste, including cotton seed, bakery waste such as expired potato chips, and used cooking oil from restaurants in Southern California and Arizona. Cotton seed and bakery waste are converted into feed for cattle. The used cooking oil is refined into biodiesel for cars and trucks while reducing air quality impacts.
Last year, Denali’s Coachella facility produced more than 33,000 tons of bakery and cotton seed animal feeds, with most of it supplied to California dairy farms. The facility converted used cooking oil into more than 10 million gallons of biodiesel in 2022.
Although the Coachella plant is critical to landfill diversion efforts, the site’s organic waste recycling activities generate substantial greenhouse gases (GHGs). Denali estimates the solar configuration results in more than 650,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in emissions reductions. “This is equivalent to taking 140,000 cars off the road, according to the U.S. EPA’s GHG equivalencies calculator,” the company says.
“Benefitting the environment is at the core of what we do every day here in Coachella, but this solar project takes that one step further,” said Jason Cabanyog, who oversees the facility as a Denali vice president. “We can confidently say that this is [now] one of the most energy efficient agricultural facilities in California.”
“We are grateful for the California Energy Commission’s support,” Denali CEO Todd Mathes said. “This upgrade benefits not only our company, but also our customers—the farmers and ranchers of California who rely on our feed products to produce food for the country.”
In 2018, Imperial Western Products received a grant to upgrade dozens of machines at the site with more energy efficient models. The result at that time was a 40 reduction in GHG emissions at the site.
“Imperial Western Products, in my 17 years in this department, has always been innovative,” said Jenna Leal of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “They have always thought outside the box, been problem solvers, and they are the only commercial feed licensee to be a recipient of this grant and to be working toward clean energy.”