A California walnut farmer is proving that with ingenuity and persistence, even traditionally energy-intensive industries can help address climate change.

Russ Lester’s Dixon Ridge Farm was already organic and a model of water conservation. But drying walnuts before they are taken to market uses a lot of energy. So Lester wanted to find a way to produce his own power. One day, he realized the answer was literally falling from the trees.


LESTER: “We have all this by-product walnut shell. This shell is a really, really good energy source, easily converted into clean renewable electricity and heat.”

With help from the state, Lester leased a “bio-max” generator, capable of turning walnut shells into clean-burning bio-gas.

Today, with two generators, Dixon Ridge Farm actually produces more energy than it needs and sells the excess electricity to the grid.

Lester also captures the waste heat from the furnaces and uses it to dry his harvested walnuts, saving a lot of energy.

The left over walnut shell ash can then be sold or used as fertilizer on the orchards – nourishing the trees, which, as they grow, remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Sometimes the solutions to climate change can be literally all around you.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Walnut shell processing under way to then be burned to produce energy (source: Dixon Ridge video screenshot).

More Resources
Dixon Ridge Farms

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...