Organic Valley, a La Farge, Wis.-based cooperative of organic farmers, announced details of the first-of-its-kind community solar partnership launched last year. The project enables Organic Valley, a producer of organic dairy products, to share the benefits of solar energy with its rural neighbors and become the largest food company in the world to be 100% renewably powered. 

 In October 2017, Organic Valley committed to achieving 100% renewable power at its corporate facilities. Since pioneering this new model of community solar development, the company said it has unlocked solar beyond its needs.

 In the spirit of cooperation, 13 communities across the Midwest will also benefit from this partnership, including six in Organic Valley’s project portfolio. Beyond Organic Valley’s 12.3 megawatt (MWdc) project portfolio, an additional 19 MWdc will be constructed, the company said, resulting in more than 31 MWdc of new solar in the region, including a 33% increase in the state of Wisconsin. Partners for the remaining renewable energy credits will be announced later this year.

The six communities within Organic Valley’s portfolio that will benefit directly from the community solar partnership include Arcadia, Cashton, La Farge, Merrillan and Viola in Wisconsin, as well as St. Charles in Minnesota. When the projects begin generating power next year, the Arcadia array, sized at 6.78 MW, will be the largest solar array in the state of Wisconsin.

 Every member of these communities will benefit from stable and low electricity rates and the environmental benefits of renewable power for decades to come, Organic Valley said.

“Organic Valley is a farmer-owned cooperative with deep roots in the rural Midwest, so it makes sense that we would work together to create new sources of energy right here at home that can be shared by all,” said George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of Organic Valley. “We are committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity for our cooperative, but also sharing the bounty of solar electricity with rural communities where we live and work.”

Dr. Bronner’s, the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America and a leader in environmental sustainability, approached Organic Valley to participate in the community solar partnership and reduce its own carbon footprint. As such, Dr. Bronner’s has committed to purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) from another project to be built in Lanesboro, Minn., allowing the brand to become 100% renewably powered, Organic Valley said.

“Dr. Bronner’s is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, from supporting regenerative agriculture to pioneering post-consumer waste packaging to using solar power at our headquarters,” said David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer. “Joining Organic Valley and purchasing RECs from its community solar partnership is one more way to move forward in this direction and to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and Spaceship Earth.”

These projects resulted from a unique collaboration among Organic Valley, OneEnergy Renewables and the participating communities, Organic Valley noted. OneEnergy Renewables is a developer of community and utility-scale solar energy projects across the United States.

Organic Valley said it is a founding member of the Climate Collaborative, an organic industry trade group that convenes businesses to take action and work collaboratively to reverse climate change. In March 2018, Organic Valley received an inaugural National Co+op Grocers Award for innovation and commitment to reducing emissions.