DIXON (CBS13) – A trailblazing local farmer is producing power using leftovers from his harvest. He was recently honored as an environmental hero by the government.

Russ Lester’s on the cutting edge of energy efficiency a pyrolytic gasifier. It’s a first-of-its-kind machine that may soon revolutionize farming in California.

The walnut farmer takes his stockpile of leftover shells and turns them into the electricity that helps power his farm.

“We are able to produce the energy on-site, here, and use the energy onsite,” said Lester.

The machine heats the shells up to 2,000 degrees, converting them into a combustible gas that’s fed to a generator. Lester is a pioneer; first in the state to try it out.

“The goal for us is to be sort of the example for other farms,” said Lester.

Lester’s goal is to be completely self-sufficient so he has a second machine on the way to turn these walnut shells into power. And there is no shortage of shells.

He has 3 million pounds worth of shells. When both machines are up and running, they’ll supply 80 percent of the electricity used on Lester’s farm.

“Agriculture produces a tremendous array of byproducts that can be used just like the walnut shells in our operation,” said Lester.

He says newly-passed laws cut through red tape, paving the way for farmers to tap into what is largely an untapped energy resource: leftovers from their harvest.

“Prune pits, peach pits, even prunes capable of running through this,” said Lester.

If the process becomes popular, it could dramatically ease demands on the state’s stressed power grid.

“If we start doing this in a massive scale, we can actually offset 20 to 30 percent of the energy that California uses,” said Lester.

But Lester says using the machine to produce electricity isn’t cheap.

He about breaks even compared to the traditional way; but, he’s happy to be nearing his five-year goal of 100-percent sustainability.


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