Shafer goes 100% solar

  • Friday 6 May 2005

Napa producer Shafer Vineyards is the first winery in the United States to convert 100% to solar power.

The winery’s system produces 129 kilowatts per hour at times of peak sun exposure, which is estimated as enough electricity to power 20 to 30 typical homes. According to statistics the average American home uses about 1,000 kw each month.

One of the first applications to be tested on the new system was the bottling line, which ran on solar power to cork thousands of bottles of Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay in January.

Winery president Doug Shafer said that when the system went live in the winter the winery used as much bought-in electricity in three weeks as the average home uses in 12 hours.

In the summer, Shafer said, the sun should provide 100% of the winery’s needs. It is estimated that during its 30-year lifetime the solar array will ‘offer an air-purifying effect equal to planting 17,300 mature trees.’

It is also reckoned that the displaced need for fossil fuels over the 30 years is the equivalent of not driving 9m miles in cars.

‘We’re welcoming each sunrise with new appreciation,’ Shafer said.

The cost of the solar array – which consists of blue-tinted panels on the winery rooftops – was US$980,000, of which half will be returned to Shafer in the form of a grant from the California Utilities Commission.

While Shafer is the first winery to go 100% solar, there are other California producers which typically use between 30% and 50% solar power.

These include Domaine Carneros, Dutch Henry Winery, Long Meadow Ranch (100% solar), Frog's Leap (95% solar), Fetzer Vineyards, Rodney Strong Vineyards, and Sierra Vista.

The generation of electricity is the number one source of pollution in the United States. In 2001 one of George Bush's first acts as president was to withdraw the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, an agreement signed by 54 nations.

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