How Wine Tree Farm Winery Chose Solar Power
Our winery guests are often surprised to learn that Wine Tree Farm is a solar-powered, off the grid winery. They ask me to tell the story of how this all began…and I’m happy to share that with you.
Wine Tree Farm: Off the Grid, solar powered Winery.
In 1998 when my Dad and I first purchased this property, the old, dilapidated 1902 farmhouse, had no public utility. My father was very interested in solar power so we bought a solar panel and a couple of batteries. Since we were only here on weekends, this gave us enough power to illuminate a few DC lights at night and pump our own water. We cooked with a barbeque.
Our grape growing began when we planted our first mini-vineyard behind the house (my training wheels!) We needed additional water to irrigate the grapes.
Solar Power for our Amador Farmhouse
In 1999, my teenage son Nic decided he wanted to live here with us in the summer. Fortunately, we met a local man who installed solar-powered systems. Nic was so interested that he decided to work in the solar business with him, ultimately getting his solar electrician accreditation. We installed a small electrical solar system here at the house that generated AC, with the capability of running lights, fans, computers – virtually everything needed for day-to-day living.
We moved permanently to Amador City in 2000. In 2002, when we planted the Big Vineyard on the adjoining parcel, we put in a diesel generator for pumping water and irrigating the vineyard because there was no electricity available on that property. In 2004, we upgraded the solar system at the house by adding a few more panels and a few more batteries, and have been living off grid ever since.
A Winery Off the Grid
In 2006, we built the Winery building. We thought about getting a utility out there, but as we already had experienced living off the grid, we decided it was better to extend our off the grid living to the Winery. As Nic was now a solar electrician, he installed the system for us.
When we use the sun to create energy, it creates it as direct current (DC). We use an inverter to convert DC current to traditional Alternating Current (AC). As you may know, almost all electrical devices use AC. However, converting DC to AC uses up valuable energy. Therefore, running DC appliances is more energy efficient. We try to run DC appliances whenever possible.
Our solar array consists of 12 panels, at 170 watts each, producing 2 kW hours. Energy in excess of our usage is stored in 8 deep-cycle batteries. A 120 volt inverter converts the direct current energy to alternating current.
We cool the winery with a 24 volt DC battery-driven evaporative cooler. We have found that our system gives us all the energy we need, and even during Crush, when we need to use our pressure washer and crusher/destemmer, we seldom have to go to our back-up generator.
Solar Powered Winery: Big Challenges and Great Results
Making wine off grid can be challenging. We have to do things that other wineries don’t; we seldom use pumps, and always use gravity to transfer wines from vessel to vessel, for racking and pressing the grapes. Not using pumps is known to be better for the resulting wine—and our winery guests seem to agree! You’re invited to visit us, take a look around at our off the grid solutions, and try our award-winning wines.