Posted: May 23, 2017
Have you ever considered the ecological footprint of the wine in your glass during happy hour? Many large-scale wineries strain the environment through their use of chemical pesticides and high water consumption. As the awareness spreads, however, organic farming methods and solar power are starting to reduce the carbon footprint of many wines.
The solar winery trend is becoming more popular in the States, making eco-friendly wines readily available to U.S.’s wine enthusiasts. That’s great news if you’re wondering how (or if) your drinking habits are affecting the world around you.
The Trend Makes Sense
Energy and water costs in states like California have gone up big time, and with 500 million gallons of wine produced there annually, those fuel costs can snowball. How does solar power help wineries go green? With climate instability increasing and the spike in fuel costs, well, spiking, a solar-powered winery makes perfect sense. Solar technology has looked darn good in the last decade and there are more tax breaks available, meaning solar power is choice for cost-effective sustainability.
Here’s the economic thinking: It’s great for the environment, and from a marketing standpoint, it’s a huge draw for the growing population of eco-conscious consumers. The very nature of a winery depends on wide open and sunny geography. This is the ideal location for solar panels to use that sunshine to create a less expensive harvest with a lower carbon footprint.
California Is a Solar Winery Hot Spot
With its sunny skies and ideal climate, California has become a hot spot for solar wineries. If you’re looking for one to support, whether it’s for your next vacation or your next grocery store purchase, here are three to consider:
Shafer Vineyards became the first winery in the U.S. to switch to 100-percent solar power in 2004. And according to Shafer Vineyards, they didn’t stop there. In 2008 they built a second solar array to power the irrigation system that waters the 50 acres of grapevines surrounding the winery. On sunny days they can produce more than 200 kW of electrical power. That’s enough to meet the energy needs of approximately 160 homes.
Castoro Cellars offers a solar-powered Summer Concert Series. Yes, a concert series. The Castoro Cellars sustainability page boasts their commitment to solar energy as well as their desire to reduce their carbon footprint in as many ways as possible. From solar-powered concerts to sustainable agriculture techniques and recycling, this solar winery is a literal rockstar in reducing its ecological footprint.
Far Niente uses “Floatovoltaics” to power their winery. Floatovoltaics are an alternative to conventional, land-based solar installations for places where land access is limited. The Far Niente winery was the world’s first large-scale floatovoltaic system and was installed in 2011. A floating solar farm provides green energy while also reducing evaporation rates of the body of water on which it’s housed.
Oregon Promotes Their Solar Wineries With a Tour
While California may be one of the most popular places for solar-powered wineries, other states are also jumping on board. Oregon encouraged wine lovers to visit a few of its solar wineries by joining in on their recent solar winery tour. In May, Solar Oregon offered tours of three local solar-powered wineries, which included glimpses into the solar arrays and vineyards as well as wine tastings and lunch. This tour is just one way Solar Oregon is working to promote solar energy in the state and raise awareness of the role it plays to the Oregon wine industry.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM GO-WINE RESEARCH
According to The Environmental Leader.Com, "Approximately 17,000 solar panels, with combined solar power of 3.95 megawatt DC, were installed at four Constellation Brands wineries by the end of 2010, making the initiative the largest solar footprint in the U.S. wine industry, according to the company. Constellation says this is equivalent to removing 4.5 million pounds of carbon from the atmosphere."
The solar power generated at these sites is expected to meet most if not all of the wineries’ energy needs. The systems provides the Estancia and Ravenswood wineries with 100 percent of their annual power and 75 percent of the needs of Clos du Bois and 60 percent of Gonzales.
Solar Wineries Move East
The West Coast is definitely the center of solar wineries, but the trend is gaining in popularity throughout the U.S. From Michigan to New York, more and more wineries are looking to the sun to power their vineyards. Although no list of these champions currently exists, Lisa Mattson from Jordan Vineyard & Winery started a Solar-Powered Wineries group on Facebook and is trying to create the first comprehensive listing of solar wineries in the country. The list currently includes 114 wineries as of July 2012, and only wineries that use at least 50 percent solar energy can be included.
From a reduction in their environmental footprint to massive financial savings, many wineries are beginning to see the appeal of solar energy. Want to support this growing trend? Vote with your dollar on your next shopping trip. Raise a glass at happy hour, filled with solar-generated wine, and toast to a more sustainable future.
By DIANE HOFFMASTER
FEBRUARY 26, 2017
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