For winemakers all across New Zealand, making fine wine is a craft that yields pride and joy. But running a winery, whether large or small, does come with its challenges.
Solar energy might just be the perfect solution to some of those challenges.
For example, if you need to save on your utility bills, ‘free’ power from the sun can help. And, if you want to set your vineyard apart from the rest, solar can help by showing off your business as future-ready, eco-friendly, and welcoming of a new, 'greener' era.
All the central and remote power needs of your vineyard can be fully managed with solar, while saving money and potentially creating a new revenue source: you can store any excess, unused solar energy in the grid and sell it back to your utility.
Also, when vintners use this cost-saving form of energy, they create a sustainable image and even a competitive advantage for their wineries. In short, solar can help make your viticulture business more profitable.
For all these reasons and more, adding solar energy to your vineyard simply makes great business sense. Read on to learn more.
Practical solar power uses for vineyards
As winemakers know, vineyards place a heavy drain on power use, which translates into a heavy financial drain on the balance sheet.
But solar power can assist, by supplementing your existing grid electricity, while saving on monthly costs, cutting carbon emissions, and making your winery a shining example of a new, ‘greener’ viticulture industry.
One important use of solar for viticulturalists is to use it as a remote power supply. For a large vineyard, you’ll often have to run equipment far away from your central building, and possibly charge large batteries.
This is a great opportunity to use ground-mounted solar PV panels wherever you require power in your field. Instead of spending a lot on transformers and new power lines, remote solar panels with inverters produce usable AC electricity that meets your power needs at a distance.
Another thing essential to any vineyard is irrigation. While traditional grid energy can make sure your vineyard is well-watered, the savings can be huge when using free sunlight to do the same.
And you can depend on solar water pumps, as they require little maintenance. The pumps use DC power directly generated by solar PV panels to move water – they are simpler than AC-powered traditional pumps that often depend on centrifugal impellers and power lines. There are few or no moving parts, the pumps can be placed virtually anywhere in your field, and the only care usually needed is to gently clean the solar panels on occasion.
Finally, solar can meet basic power needs for your buildings, such as heating and lighting, and supply power for any necessary tasks post-harvesting, such as washing, refrigeration, and cooling your cellar.
With a net-metered solar installation, a built-in monitor will show how much energy you're producing and using, and possibly how much excess energy you can sell back to your utility at a profit.
Installing solar for winemakers — Sizing and savings
Every vineyard is as unique as the grapes you cultivate and the wine you produce.
That means you need a solar PV system that’s the right size for your vineyard, in order to achieve the best balance of energy vs cost. When correctly sized, a solar system can pay for itself rather quickly.
Using an agri-business example, an operation consuming between 200-400 kWh/month, will on average, need a solar PV system size with a 30 kWh capacity. Again, there are many variables unique to vineyards; an expert solar consultant will take into account your past year’s energy usage and the particulars of your vineyard. Keep in mind that as your business grows, your solar system can grow with it easily.
To start to get an idea of savings, you can also use World Solar’s agriculture calculator to learn when you should get ‘payback’ from your solar system, as well as estimate your savings at one, five, and ten years out. This info can help you truly see the promise of a solar energy investment.
Click here to watch a video success story from a NZ agri-business that has transitioned into the use of solar power.
Solar power for your vineyard, a great branding upgrade
Winemaking is, of course, a very competitive industry. Your brand and label are what make your bottles stand out among all others on the shelf, long before your customers get to taste your product. One way to stand out: be an eco-friendly winemaker and become Carbon Zero Certified
Did you know?
Yealands Wine Group rolled out largest solar panel initiative in New Zealand. It has so many solar panels it could power 86 houses. Read more
As more and more Kiwis, old and young, appreciate how important renewable energy is, upgrading your winery to solar power will earn high marks from customers and wine enthusiasts.
Not only can solar panels add visual interest to your buildings...it’s a great distinguishing feature to call out in your marketing. You can then connect your winery’s eco-friendly status to the thoughtfulness that goes into the wines you make. Especially if you host events such as tours and wine tastings, your solar power can attract new interest as a unique selling point for your brand.
Winemaking is a special venture, and using the sun’s unlimited power can make it even more special. With the lower energy costs, remote power capacity for irrigation and other tasks, and branding advantages that solar power offers, installing a solar PV system is a no-brainer. The sooner you do it, the faster you can make your vineyard a more profitable and nature-friendly business.