Since the beginning of time, the sun’s vast energy has brought the world’s renowned vineyards into full bountiful harvest. And now, thanks to the Ontario government‘s precedent-setting renewable energy program, Niagara’s vineyards are about to bring another type of rewarding harvest to the table.
The Ontario Power Authority’s renewable energy Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program guarantees the purchase of electricity generated from solar and other renewable sources at extremely favorable rates. In addition, it has prompted several Niagara region wineries to consider going into the full time production of solar electricity for sale.
The enticing government program is now paying independent power producers up to 10 times the retail market price for the supply of clean, solar energy, for a guaranteed period of twenty years. Savvy Ontario vineyard owners are beginning to drink this offer up by the barrel.
“Unlike harvesting grapes, which requires exact timing at the risk of complete failure, harvesting and selling clean electricity generated from the sun is virtually maintenance free.” stated Mr. Brent O’Connor, Investor Relations Director for Atlantic Wind & Solar, a leading international renewable energy company involved in over 150 utility scale rooftop solar development projects across the province.
“Grapes generally mature and are harvested from late August to late October, depending on the variety of the grape,” O’Connor adds, “whereas solar energy is generated all year round, creating great opportunities to vineyard owners who want to help preserve the environment while adding to their existing cash crops.”
For many winemakers across the globe, this relatively new way of generating additional revenues has been a no-brainer.
Several governments across Europe (where O’Connor’s company is also participating in several projects) are purchasing solar electricity generated independently from local wineries through similar green initiative programs. Countries like Italy, Germany, and France already have programs, while the state of California is about to implement its own aggressive FIT program.
Pelee Island Winery & Vinyards Inc., located in Kingsville, Ontario, is just one winery that has already set the wheels in motion. The vineyard is in its final pre-construction stage of building a single 250 kW rooftop solar energy park, which will generate an estimated $4.5 million in additional revenues over the next 20 years.
Given plentiful sunshine, high power bills, and an abundance of unused rooftop space, it is no wonder wineries across the globe are now realizing that going solar makes good economic sense. But the lucrative rates now offered in Ontario may not be available for much longer. Some members of Queen’s Park have already turned sour on the policy, pressuring parliament to reduce the current high premiums being offered, claiming that going green is costing too much green. As a result, provincial vineyard owners who are considering this limited time offer are now feeling the pressure to expedite their FIT applications with the Ontario Power Authority before the window of opportunity closes.
But the good news is that harvesting the sun’s energy has now become a trend in many wine countries across the world, and socially responsible, enviro-friendly wine producers have officially committed to reducing the production of harmful greenhouse gasses.
Whoever it was that said “Respect the land and it will deliver many fruitful rewards” certainly was right on the money.
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