In another big step toward complete sustainability, a Napa Valley winery has gone 100 percent solar. Trefethen Family Vineyards was already known for it’s environmentally- friendly practices, like using biodiesel fuels in their trucks and tractors, recycling winery wastewater for irrigation, and other methods. John Ruel is the winery’s C.O.O. and Director of Viticulture and Enology.
“We have a fantastic sustainability program here at Trefethen,” Ruel said. “One of the basic tenants is to produce and take care of our vineyard and winery as much as we can ourselves, and depend as little as possible on outside resources.”
Their most recent accomplishment is the move to 100 percent solar. It’s a project that started a few years ago.
“We got our first array in 2007, recently completed our second, and are now covering 100 percent of electricity needs with power from the sun,” Ruel said.
Ruel says the initial investment in the conversion to solar will be paid back with the savings from not having an electric bill.
“Our solar arrays, like a couple other aspects of our sustainability program, are really interesting to me because they make sense in terms of protecting the environment, but they also make economic sense. With the tax credits from the state and federal government, and the ability to really eliminate our PG&E bill, this solar project is going to pay for itself in les than 10 years and generate money after that. It makes financial sense, and it certainly makes sense in terms of the environment.”
Ruel believes other ag businesses benefit from solar power, and he has advice for those considering it.
“There are so many companies today,” he said, “I would look for arrays, talk to your neighbors, find out who else has done it recently, see if they’ve worked with someone good. There’s a lot of good options out there.”