Grgich Hills' Solar Power
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Taking advantage of the same clean energy that grows its grapes, Grgich Hills Estate on September 14, 2006, flipped the switch to solar power with 860 photovoltaic panels, covering 13,000 square feet of the winery’s red tile roof. At peak production, the solar panels installed by SPG Solar generate 142 kilowatts and will provide almost 100 percent of the winery’s electrical needs while generating an estimated $70,000 in savings each year.
“We installed some test panels in December 2005 that generated 30 kilo watts,” explains Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production, “and even though it was winter, we were so pleased with the results and the potential savings that we started planning on creating all of our energy.” Jeramaz says it was an easy sell to winery co-founder Mike Grgich, who is also his uncle. “As soon as I told Mike there was a way to generate our own electricity and not depend on PG&E, he was all for it. Not only does it virtually eliminate our electricity bill, this conversion to a renewable and pollutant-free energy source follows our philosophy of environmental sustainability.”
Grgich Hills has been organically farming its vineyards since 2000. Committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, we farm our five estate vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, rely on wild yeast fermentation and use our passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines.
The winery is on a “net” meter, which keeps track of how much the solar panels contributed to the power grid and the winery receives a statement each month reflecting the balance. On sunny days and low usage, the winery will export power to the grid, spinning the meter back. On cloudy days or high usage, the winery uses that credit to import electricity. At the end of the year the winery will balance the books with the power company. Calculations show the winery will have almost no electricity bill. The panels have a 30-year life expectancy and Jeramaz anticipates the solar panels to pay for themselves in five years or sooner, if rates continue to rise. The project cost a little more than $1 million, which is offset by a rebate of $398,000 and depreciation.