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B.C. Steps Up Green Energy

LiveSmart BC program helps fund projects to generate power at Orofino and House of Rose

by Peter Mitham
orofino solar array
John and Virginia Weber have a new solar array at Orofino Vineyards in Cawston, B.C.
Cawston, B.C., Canada—British Columbia wineries are adding solar power to their operations, with government assistance designed to extend the province’s power-generating capacity.

Orofino Vineyards in Cawston and House of Rose Winery in Kelowna are two of the most recent recipients of funding under British Columbia’s LiveSmart BC program.

A green history
The move was a natural step for Orofino, not just because it is in the sun-drenched Similkameen Valley, but because it has been energy-conscious from its inception. (Orofino was lauded for its straw-bale construction when it opened in 2005.)

“We were actually interested in implementing solar, but it was so expensive at the time that we couldn’t possibly do it,” said Virginia Weber, who owns Orofino with her husband John.

Following an energy assessment sponsored by the LiveSmart BC, however, this summer Orofino was able to install a small, 2.2 kilowatt-per-hour array of solar panels on the roof of its tasting room.

“It was completely voluntary and at no cost to us, so we said, ‘Sure,’” Weber told Wines & Vines.

LiveSmart BC program
Orofino ranked in the top 10 of 450 assessments completed by LiveSmart, and the Webers applied for funding under the LiveSmart BC Small Business Champions program, which was launched in 2011, is backed by $17 million and expires in 2013.

The program awarded Orofino $16,766 to be applied toward the $25,000 cost of its solar array, installed by Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. of Summerland. The array will provide electricity and heat water for the Orogino tasting room, with a small amount of power supporting operation of the winemaking and warehouse facility.

Two reports are required during the course of the next year—one regarding implementation and performance, and another detailing the actual efficiencies. (Projects approved for funding by LiveSmart BC promise energy savings of at least 20%.)

The savings were much needed at House of Rose, which received $25,000 toward a $40,000 renovation of its 20-year-old winery.

“We needed to replace some of the insulation on the inside and the outside. We have a really old system of lighting, so we needed to replace that,” said Wouter van der Hall, who owns House of Rose with his wife Aura Rose.

Geothermal systems and a solar-powered system for heating water also are planned to reduce energy costs and improve overall performance. The shift is consistent with a move to low-impact viticulture that began three years ago.

Van der Hall told Wines & Vines that the government support will cut the payback time on the renovation expenses in half (from 15 years to approximately seven years.)

But determining the actual payback is difficult.

Example of success
Chris Wyse, president of Burrowing Owl Estate Vineyard in Oliver, said an array of 30 solar panels installed at the winery five years ago heat water for the pool at the winery’s guest house. The system pre-heats water for use in the cellar, too, and complements a geothermal system.

“We use a lot of hot water,” Wyse said. “We can offset our carbon footprint. (Panels) are still, for that purpose, probably the most economical way to do that. Whether there’s 100% payoff, we’ll probably never know.”

The biggest bonus for Burrowing Owl is that the panels are low maintenance and fulfill their purpose: to heat water.

“They work well; we’ve had absolutely no problems with them,” Wyse said.

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