BY MATTHEW EVANS

This August, the world’s first 100 percent solar hazelnut processing plant went live at Northwest Hazelnut Company (NWH).  Oregon’s hazelnut crop is world-renown for its premium quality, and now one Oregon hazelnut company can claim a top spot in the world marketplace: end-to-end sustainability — from grower to processing.

With an eye on opening future markets for their growers, NWH leadership told Oregon Family Farmer that major manufacturers began auditing suppliers for implementing sustainability into their operations.  In response, Northwest Hazelnut implemented a multi-year strategic plan to lead the way in sustainable energy.  “Adapting to the demands of consumers and companies like Ferrero, is a smart place to be in a dynamic marketplace,” said Rick Peterson, NWH Sales Director.

Northwest Hazelnut celebrated the 1,000 panel solar array with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 1.  Oregon Governor Kate Brown spoke to approximately 150 people at the event, which attracted industry representatives, local dignitaries, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and local growers and employees and their families.

Governor Brown toured the project, and told the crowd, “Thanks to Northwest Hazelnut, Oregon is leading the world in sustainability practices in the hazelnut industry.”

The solar panels produce close to 550,000 kilowatt hours of power, completely covering the power needs of the processing plant.

Oregon’s hazelnut industry is experiencing rapid growth.  “And,” says Peterson, “Northwest Hazelnut stands ready to promote Oregon hazelnuts as delicious and sustainable.”  Hazelnut production in Oregon is expected to grow 300 percent in the next seven years.  Currently 28,000 acres are in production this year, with 68,000 acres in the ground and coming online by 2024.