California Vintner Launches Largest Solar Installation in Wine Industry

California Vintner Launches Largest Solar Installation in Wine Industry

The power of the sun is helping make some of the most distinctive wines to come out of Sonoma County.

The largest solar-powered system in the wine world -- 4,032 panels -- is up and running at Rodney Strong Vineyards' 100,000 square-foot barrelhouse, which contains 40,000 barrels for aging wine. The solar energy from the Barrel House supplies power throughout the winery.

"Increasingly, we have gone about the business of reviewing our energy efficiency and environmental responsibilities from the ground up," says winery owner Tom Klein. "Through our winery and vineyard practices, to our day-to-day recycling efforts, our intention is to be supportive of our Sonoma County environment."

The entire winery realized the system's impact immediately on completion. Its meters register power generation even under the cloudy skies of winter. Running at full capacity, the system is rated at 766 kilowatts of power, enough electricity during the daytime to power almost 800 homes.

The solar cells or panels are converters -- taking energy from sunlight and converting it to electricity. They do this without any moving parts, noise, pollution, radiation or maintenance. The direct current electricity from the solar panels is converted to alternating current by the power of an electronic inverter, and then is fed directly into the building's power distribution system where it supplies electric power.

The system cost $4 million, but the winery's investment is actually half that, as the Pacific Gas and Electric utility rebates 50 percent of the total gross cost of the system. The investment payback in terms of energy produced is expected to be about 10 years. Most impressive is that the environmental impact from the solar system is immediate.

"We're delighted that Rodney Strong Vineyards is setting such a wonderful example for the wine industry by deploying reliable, environmentally responsible and cost-effective solar power," noted PowerLight Corp. president Dan Shugar. "Rodney Strong Vineyards is demonstrating real vision by embracing renewable technologies at this magnificent Sonoma County winery."