Nicolaus Nut Company

Family-Owned Farming Operation Sets Up Solar Panels to Reduce Energy Costs


Nicolaus Nut Company is a family-owned, farming operation, growing walnuts and almonds. Located just one mile south of Chico, CA, founder George Nicolaus and his family wanted to keep their farming operation on the forefront of innovation and one that values streamlining operations while positively impacting the environment. Their commitment to environmental stewardship includes having placed a portion of their farm in a conservation easement held by the Northern California Regional Land Trust, meaning that the property must remain in agriculture in perpetuity with no residential development beyond what was previously agreed to. George Nicolaus and his wife, Connie, and their two daughters are all owners, which can give farmers a competitive edge in receiving federal or statewide grants.


With a good size diversified nut farm, irrigation costs can be an astronomical challenge, as are the energy costs associated with maintaining mature almond and walnut trees. Nicolaus Nut Company knew they wanted to set up solar panels to reduce energy costs but also to support clean environmental practices on their acreage going forward. The solar panels would dramatically offset the costs of the water pumps. While expanding acreage at this point is extremely difficult to do in California, the Nicolaus family knew they could save and streamline their profits in making operational reductions and cutting overhead costs. Such improvements are costly, and the family wished to consider all available resources for funding.


The solar panel system the Nicolaus’ were considering would replace 97.1% of the current usage of their agricultural well pump. Morrison & Company studied Nicolaus Nut Company’s plans and recommended applying for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Crafted by Morrison’s grant services team, we formulated a strong argument for their energy savings and detailed how this project directly aligns with REAP’s priorities, making it an attractive project for the USDA to fund.


While the award announcement took a great deal of time for the government to release, Morrison & Company was pleased to hear that Nicolaus Nut Company was awarded their REAP application. Nicolaus Nut Company was able to bring in Alternative Energy Systems (AES) to create the design and engineer the solar panel project. All the professionals on the team were LEED accredited and this also aligned with the Nicolaus family’s high value on smart business and environmentally safe and sound practices.