Solar-power in the (wine-)making

Solar energy system: $1,000,000

Last month’s energy bill: $1.19

Reduced carbon emissions: Priceless

What sounds like an advertisement by a well-known financial institution is actually taken from a postcard you can find at Honig Vineyard. In August 2006, the winery threw the switch on its photovoltaic system and has been 100% solar-powered since then. With 819 Sanyo 200-watt modules, the installation was one of the largest in the country when it was installed. Mounted on the ground, the modules generate sufficient power to run the whole winery, including cooling and bottling. This allows Honig to save over $42,000 a year in electricity bills. Not only that: Over the next 30 years, it will prevent over 7.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions (the equivalent of planting more than 34 acres of carbon dioxide-absorbing trees). The economics seem to be working out, according to Michael Honig:

“With financing, rebates and tax credits, we actually improve our cash flow, so not only are we helping the environment, we are saving money. This allows us to ‘Do well while doing good’, something we continually strive for.”

On the Honig website, you can see how much energy the system is producing. This is the production at the time of writing this article:

Havens Wine Cellars in 2006 was driven by a similar commitment to sustainable wine-growing when it installed 246 solar panels on its south-facing roof – the perfect exposure with extended winter and summer sunshine. Wineries typically use a lot of energy, especially during crush. With a daily production of 241.06 kWh (daily power of 39.49 kW), the vineyard reduces its CO2-emissions by 168.74 kg.

In 2008, Chappellet Winery followed this trend and installed a 20,000-square-foot solar photovoltaic system on their premises. Comprised of 960 individual solar modules capable of producing approximately 280,000 kilowatt hours per year, the system generates enough energy to offset 100% of the winery’s PG&E bill. Over a 30-year period, it will be reducing greenhouse gases by more than 4.5 million pounds (again the comparison, that’s equal to planting over 40,000 trees).

Solar-Powered Wine Tour

With these solar-powered vineyards at our doorstep, CleanTechies organized a “Solar-Powered Wine Tour” to bring local Solar professionals together and to raise awareness of sustainable wine-making practices. The group visited the three vineyards for a unique wine-tasting event with a good cause: All proceeds of the tour went to Solar Richmond, a non-profit that provides green-collar job training and placement in solar PV and solar thermal. The participants, working for a broad range of companies serving the Solar industry, enjoyed a day of networking, winetasting, and learning about solar-powered wine-making. I would like to thank Honig Vineyard, Havens Wine Cellars and Chappellet Winery again for their generous donations.

Here are some impressions from the event. For more pictures, check out the CleanTechies Facebook Fan Page.

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