Solar Power Harvests Savings for Vineyard

The sun will soon do more than ripen the grapevines at Mount Eden Vineyards since Akeena Solar was tapped to install a solar electric generating system at the winergy’s grounds this summer. Free power from the sun will provide all the electricity for Mount Eden’s main offices, winery, laboratory and residence, located at about 2,000 feet up Mount Eden.

Los Gatos, California, July 22, 2003 [] “We will install the solar modules on secure ground arrays next to one of the vineyards to replace the equivalent 20,000 kW of energy we buy now from PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric),” said the owner, Jeffrey Patterson. “The system will be wired into our existing electric service and we will be running our electric meter backwards during the summer months.” Mount Eden is the oldest winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, established in the 1940s, and has been operating under the Mount Eden brand since 1972. According to Patterson, every year the vinery produces 5,000 cases of cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay from the 40 acres of grapes planted on his 200-acre property. “With the amount of area available for the system at Mount Eden Vineyards, we certainly could have installed a much larger solar electric system,” said Barry Cinnamon, President of Akeena Solar. “However, our engineering and financial analyses indicated that a 20 kW system would be optimal for their historic and planned electrical needs. Since PG&E will not reimburse their customers for excess power produced on an annual basis, designing a system with overcapacity is just wasted money for our customers — not to mention free power for PG&E.” There are three tax incentives for businesses that install solar electric systems in California. First is a 15 percent state tax credit against the cost of the system. Second is a 10 percent Federal tax credit. Third is a five-year accelerated depreciation that applies to the final cost of the system. These incentives, when combined with California’s rebate program, are expected to bring cash paybacks on these systems down to approximately five years. “From an environmental point of view, the basic nature of solar power, plus the combination of incentives we will receive from the State of California and Federal government, and from my viewpoint as a businessman, the estimated cost savings over the life of the system made the decision a no-brainer,” said Patterson.

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