Wind Power at Wineries... Just Hot Air?

Posted by The Wine Whore |

After coming across this article about how Anaba winery just installed a wind turbine, I have to ask myself "is this just another clever marketing trick?"

There's no doubt that "going green" has become a real heavy hitter buzz word over the last few years. Everyone's jumping on the bandwagon, and sure, it's a great cause but are wineries now implementing wind turbines, solar panels, and whatnot as a way to gain media attention and differentiate themselves in an otherwise crowded market?

Even if this is just another clever marketing strategy, I guess I can't complain. At least THESE types of marketing techniques offer some form of benefit for the environment. But I still have to wonder...

Are wind turbines in wineries just a bunch of hot air?

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Corkdork said...

Yes, it's marketing, just like the common refrain of "we're organic!"

That being said, I agree with you -- using sustainable energy like wind or solar in winemaking is marketing that also makes good environmental and economic (once the investment in solar cells or wind turbines is paid off, it's free energy...) sense.

drinknectar said...

A benefit to the environment but a ugly stain on the scenery of America. I hate those things.

Josh @nectarwine

The Wine Whore said...

It seems like everyone likes the benefit environmentally... are there other ways of accomplishing this without as much "ugly strain"?

Is it worth it?

Sheldon Haynie said...

Its more than marketing. We are setting up "Lightheart Cellars" in San Martin, CA. We have very predictable winds, and can harvest enough power from a 1kW turbine to take us out of the Top tier power billing rate.

Putting up a 50 ft tower with turbine may be "ugly" to some, but its distinctive and will allow future customers (we open 2011) to find us, as it will be visible above the surrounding buildings.

We'll add PV panels later in the year, when we have more sun, to fill up the inverter capacity. They're ugly in their own way, so we will put them on the roof of the wood shop where we can get 100% coverage.

Using the swimming pool as a heat sink for chilling our fermentations is the other way we are trying to be low energy, mostly because its simple good economics, to reduce variable costs which will predictably increase over time.

The Wine Whore said...

Thank you Sheldon for dropping by and leaving some insight on this topic from a winery's POV. It sounds like this is more than JUST a marketing campaign for your winery. I like the idea of a swimming pool as a heat sink... will that be open to visitors to swim in? :)

In any case, good luck with your new endeavor! I'd really be interested to hear how this technology works for you over the next couple of years!

Joe said...

maybe they're bracing for cap & trade.

Whether it's truly for power or just for marketing, talking it up either way should benefit the winery's sales.

The Wine Whore said...

That's for sure! I've gotten a lot of interesting feedback on this one! The one thing that IS unanimous is the fact that everyone says it's clearly a marketing strategy... whether or not there's any sort of other direct monetary benefit seems to depend on how well the ROI (return on investment) works out. Oddly enough, many people have told me that it could take as much as 25 years to recoup the costs...

Anonymous said...

Depending on the area you are and the size requirements the cost is the equivalent of paying 25 years of electric bills upfront. I don't know about you but I don't pay even a day before I have to.

Don't get me wrong I am all about smarter more efficient construction. We have built some very efficient homes over the years. We developed Montaluce using those principles. I am an advocate of New Ruralism as well. Not much myself for living in a city.

Problem has to be tackled more holistically. It all starts with design. The most cost effective method of lowering energy costs is to design a more efficient building envelope. In our winery we have 2 sides of 2 stories underground. Goes back to my discussion about the ground being 55F all the time. On the above ground sections we used 12 inch, concrete filled block with stucco applied over it. On the interior walls we framed with 2x6 studs and filled with blown fiberglass in netting. All the windows and doors are Energy Star rated wood products. The clay tile is both renewable (smash it and it is back to clay) and allows circulation to keep the attic spaces cooler. All that is just smart building and it will last forever.

On the other hand we had to make some choices about heating and air conditioning. We examined geothermal, wind and solar power generation. Solar would have cost us AFTER rebates $700,000 and would have only generated a part of our maximum capacity. Wind is too erratic for our area and would have just been for show, like owning a Prius. Geothermal is still a possibility but will be a retrofit at some later date.

I have thought long and hard about alternative energy. Even had an article published. If we want to become more energy efficient we need to allow technology to catch up and in the meantime improve the homes we have already built.


I have an uncle who is a renowned economist. Fact is we have a limited amount of real capital (not withstanding the current government's attempts to create more by just turning on printing presses)that can be deployed best by individuals and private markets. If we divert that money artificially to green projects just to make ourselves feel good we will miss the opportunity to deploy that same capital for new innovation that might just solve our problems.

Sorry for the diatribe but I am passionate about it.


The Wine Whore said...

That's it! Build it smarter, not just greener!

People need to realize that it's not about just putting up a windmill, it's about doing things efficiently as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to share your story on this issue... I know for me, as a wine lovin' consumer, it's hard to tell when things are just razzle dazzle and when things are fo real!

I appreciate your honesty and look forward to one day visiting your winery first hand to see the things that you have employed.

Until then, Cheers! :)

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