"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Tulare: At World Ag Expo, PG&E Shows New Technology, Water and Energy Saving Programs

By Tracy Correa

TULARE – From utility trucks to tractors, PG&E showcased some of the latest technology it uses to keep the energy flowing and the farm industry informed at the world’s largest agricultural gathering – the World Ag Expo.

A solar tractor built by UC Merced engineering students is on display at PG&E's booth at World Ag Expo. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)

A solar tractor built by UC Merced engineering students is on display at PG&E’s booth at World Ag Expo. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)

Part farm show, part county fair, the annual event – now in its 47th year – attracts about 100,000 people from 70 countries. It opened Tuesday (Feb. 11) and runs through today (Feb. 13) in this farm community about 50 miles southeast of Fresno. And, PG&E was there to provide critical information to agricultural customers, from small, independent farmers to big farm businesses.

The utility had a 12,800-square-foot exhibit area where it displayed vehicles, provided demonstrations and offered information on how agricultural customers – and all customers — can save energy, water and money on their utility bills.

For all the fun, the event did have a bit of a dark cloud over it this year as farmers deal with the state’s drought situation and its expected negative impact on their businesses. The drought also was on the minds of PG&E officials in attendance.

Pat Mullen, a PG&E director who leads the company’s Ag Task Force, said it’s even more critical this year that the company work closely with its farm customers. “This includes doing whatever we can … to help farmers lower costs, lower their bills and stay in business,” he said.

The agriculture industry is an important segment of PG&E’s customer base, said Mullen. “When we are helping them, we are helping the economy.”

PG&E's Bob Carlson, manager with energy solutions and service in Fresno, speaks with Expo attendees on Wednesday.

PG&E’s Bob Carlson, manager with energy solutions and service in Fresno, speaks with Expo attendees on Wednesday.

There are several things PG&E already has done to help its customers in agriculture, said Mullen. This includes working closely with the California Farm Bureau on rate changes benefitting agricultural customers, increasing PG&E staff to handle more applications for servicing new field pumps and wells, and adding more programs and incentives for energy-efficiency programs that benefit farmers.

Mullen said he was glad for the opportunity to talk with farmers directly about their concerns –one of the many reasons PG&E takes part in the annual show.

Kenny Watkins, who owns cattle and grows walnuts, hay and grain in the Stockton area, said the drought is the critical farm issue right now.

Availability of water will determine how much farmers can grow, said Watkins, who is also first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “And, electricity is always one of our major expenses,” said the farmer, who adds that PG&E’s assistance is appreciated.

Jim and Maria Meyer, from Greenfield in Monterey County, toured PG&E’s exhibit space and learned they could save on their energy bill by changing into a different rate option. “Anytime I can do something to save money, I’m for it,” said Jim Meyer, who is not a farmer but has attended the Ag Expo the past five years.

PG&E linemen demonstrate their pole-climbing skills at the massive agricultural event.

PG&E linemen demonstrate their pole-climbing skills at the massive agricultural event.

Meanwhile, Dakota Vieira, 18, stopped in to speak with PG&E jobs recruiter Laura Shrader about employment opportunities. “I’ve always been interested in being a lineman. I like the heights,” said the teen from the Fresno County farm town of Caruthers.

Vieira got to see some of PG&E’s linemen in action as they provided a live demonstration of how they scale utility poles. Expo guests also were invited to take part in on-ground, lineman challenge tasks, complete with protective work gear. A nearby photo booth also proved popular with guests who donned PG&E hard hats, orange safety vests and gear for a free snapshot.

PG&E trucks – from utility vehicles to tractors – also garnered attention. One of PG&E’s large tractors used to help in the battle against the Rim Fire last year was on display as was a mobile command vehicle.

Farmers also learned how they could have their field pumps tested for energy efficiency, how to avoid potentially hazardous gas dig-ins and how to request a PG&E audit to save money on utility bills. A “smart pig” pipeline inspection tool used in hydrostatic pressure tests also was on display as was information on safe digging and the importance of calling 811.

Email Tracy Correa at tracy.correa@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.