Napa Winery Basks in Solar Power

Napa Winery Basks in Solar Power

Napa-based Far Niente flipped the switch on a solar energy system that will supply all of the winery's needs.

The system relies on a combination of land-mounted and "Floatovoltaic" solar arrays that are expected to generate 400 kilowatts at peak output. More than 1,000 Sharp solar panels are mounted to pontoons that will float on the irrigation pond at the winery's Martin Stelling Vineyard, while another 1,300 panels are located on an adjacent acre of land.

"We will always be committed first and foremost to producing great wines; it's what we've been doing for over 25 years," Larry Maguire, Far Niente Winery's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Yet, we recognize that our environment is facing significant challenges, and as an agriculture-based business we have an obligation to do our part and take sustainable measures where possible."

Napa Valley wineries are adopting solar energy for their operations more than 40 times faster that the state's general business community, estimated Dan Thompson of SPG Solar, the Novato, Calif.-based company that developed and installed Far Niente's solar energy system.

Elsewhere in Napa County, Frog's Leap, Merryvale and Domaine Carneros wineries all boast solar power systems. Fetzer Vineyards, in Mendocino County, proclaimed in 2006 that it would become the largest solar energy vineyard in the world with a 1.1 million kilowatt solar array that satisfies about 80 percent of its bottling plant's needs.

The $4.2 million array at Far Niente and other solar energy projects at its sister winery, Nickel & Nickel, were subsidized with a cash rebate of nearly $2 million from local utility Pacific Gas and Electric, as well as accelerated appreciation and a federal tax credit, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. An array at Nickel & Nickel cost $3 million.

Bank of America Leasing & Capital LLC bought Far Niente's solar array under an arrangement where the winery leases the units and can buy back after seven years.