Video: Cline Cellars Uses Solar To Complement Its Sustainable Business

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is the beginning of California’s wine country. The Sonoma and Napa regions are famous worldwide for their wines, but the industry is now also starting to gain notoriety for its use of renewable energy, specifically solar energy, to power its vinyards and wine making processes.

One of these wineries, Cline Cellars in Sonoma Valley, which includes the Cline, Oakley and Jacuzzi vineyards, is using its solar system as a promotional tool not only for itself but also for two of the companies that have helped them go solar, Advanced Energy (AE) and Solarcraft. Recently, RenewableEnergyWorld.com was able to tour the Cline Cellars site and see the 411-kilowatt (kW) system in action, producing energy for both Cline and the local grid.

“Solar works out perfectly for the wine industry in California. Our time of peak need, the late summer days of harvest, aligns with both peak solar energy production and peak energy costs. We therefore avoid purchasing energy when it costs the most and we back feed the grid when power is worth the most. The only electricity we require is at night, when it’s cheap,” said Peggy Phelan, director of operations for Cline Cellars.

According to Chris Bunas, vice president of solar electric for Solarcraft, the Cline system represents Solarcraft’s business plan very well.

“This project is a typical commercial project that we do. They make up about 90% of our business,” Bunas said. “We use Cline Cellars all the time as a resumé project. We have an extremely close relationship with Cline and we use their system not only for events but also to show potential clients the value of going solar.”

While the system has been in operation since 2005, it has recently undergone some changes, including the installation of a 333-kW AE Solaron Inverter. According to Todd Miklos, vice president of marketing for AE, the new inverter has been operating at 97.5% efficiency and helps to deliver approximately 586,000 kWh of electricity per year from the system, which is mounted on top of Cline’s 50,000 square-foot warehouse roof.

For Cline Cellars, the solar system is just one of the ways that the company is trying reduce it’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. Cline also uses organic soils, organic cover crops, compost teas, crushed volcanic rock and oyster shell, natural mined sulfur and sheep grazing practices to produce its products. However, Phelan said these practices are designed not only to be environtmentally friendly, but also to help Cline’s bottom line.

“It was a sound business decision to install solar power. In addition to making a contribution to operating sustainably in the world, solar energy aligns with a value system of self-determination,” Phelan said. “For systems which are engineered to cover 100% of the energy requirement, such as the one at Cline Cellars, we will avoid the escalating cost of electricity for years to come.  From a budget perspective, flatlining energy costs is a real benefit.”

Cline Cellars Project Details:

  • System Size – 411 kW
  • Panels – 1974 Sharp 208 Panels
  • Inverters – One AE 333-kW Solaron Inverter, One Ballard 75-kW Inverter
  • Mounting System –  Unirac Sunframe
  • PTC Rated Watts – 344,000 watts
  • Estimated Annual kWh – 573,000
  • Estimated Annual Savings – US $92,000
  • Cumulative Cash Positive – 5-6 years from 2005

Cline has also recently installed two more solar systems with a total capacity of 124 kW at its Jacuzzi vineyard. The two systems at Jacuzzi, also installed by Solarcraft, are part of an experiment being conducted to test the capabilities of solar tracking systems and to find out if the extra cost of tracking is returned with increased electrical output.

One system includes single pole mount and ground-mount structures. Both are fixed mounted and tilted directly south. The tracking system is mounted on a single axis tracking system, allowing the solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day, providing 15-20% more energy production. SolarCraft will be monitoring the two arrays with a remote monitoring system and using the data to determine the exact benefits compared with the cost of a tracking system.

To see the Cline Cellars solar system and to hear about AE’s role in the project from Todd Miklos, play the video below.

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Former Editor at RenewableEnergyWorld.com, now Assistant Counsel at the New York State Department of Public Service, regulating New York's electricity, gas, and telecommunications industries.

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