Duda, Gills go greener at Oxnard plantsTwo companies known for their fresh produce plan to showcase fresh approaches to energy needs when they unveil the world’s largest vanadium flow battery and 37,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels.

Gills Onions and Duda Farm Fresh Foods set the event for July 11, dubbing it the Produce Energy “Green” Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, in Oxnard. Officials expect the two power systems to collectively generate 1.63 megawatts of renewable energy, according to Nikki Rodoni, director of sustainability for Gills.

Corporate leaders from both companies said the move to sustainable power sources makes sense from a cost-efficiency perspective, as well as being socially responsible.

The tennis-court-sized battery at the Gills Oxnard, Calif., processing facility, for example, means the company won’t have to pay extra fees for energy use during peak times. The 14-acre plant processes more than 90,000 tons of yellow and red onions annually.

Duda, Gills go greener at Oxnard plantsThe vanadium flow battery — the first in a new generation of technology according to manufacturer Prudent Energy — will store electricity during lower cost night hours and provide 600 kilowatts of power for as long as six hours during peak usage times.

“The Prudent people approached us because of our commitment to sustainable energy,” Rodoni said. “They installed it and funded the project.”

The Washington D.C.-based Prudent used patented regenerative fuel cell technology that converts chemical energy into electrical energy to build the giant battery. The project has been in the works since December 2010, according to the Prudent website.

Duda, Gills go greener at Oxnard plantsAt Duda’s celery operation in Oxnard, company officials expect new photovoltaic solar panels to generate 688,000 kilowatts per year, meeting 40% of the power needs for the fresh-cut and cooling facility.

Sam Duda, vice president of Western vegetable operations, said the family owned business has a specific commitment to reduce its environmental footprint by increasing use of sustainable practices.

Company officials said in the release they anticipate the panels will cut Duda’s carbon dioxide emissions by 478 metric tons each year. They said that is the equivalent of the emissions from 53,580 gallons of gasoline.