If you look down on Peachy Canyon Winery from the top of Doug and Nancy Beckett’s house, you’ll see black, shiny rows huddled over the landscape, soaking in sunlight.
These solar panels are recent additions, and they’re already putting in overtime to provide all of the electricity for the entire winery property.
The system utilizes about 980 solar panels to cover 80 acres, including several irrigation wells, a 50,000 square-foot winery, the Chronic Cellars tasting room, and two residences — Doug and Nancy’s home, along with the Peachy Canyon Cottage.
It’s a process that first started about 10 years ago when Doug and Nancy decided to install solar panels on their home, which virtually wiped out their home electricity bills with the exception of small service fees.
But going solar over the entire winery wasn’t feasible until recently. By waiting, Peachy Canyon was able to cut the cost of installation and put more modern, efficient panels on the property through energy company Solarponics.
“Today, you know when we go down and we listen to the system, we basically just hear an incredible humming,” Doug said. “And our goal — and I know that we’re going to achieve it — is that by the end of the year we produce more electricity than we use.”
It may sound a little lofty. Afterall, winemaking equipment and storage space demand a lot of energy at all hours, especially through peak seasons during the summer and harvest. But the vast winery property and tall buildings allowed Solarponics to overbuild the system. So potential energy can be stored up throughout the year, and panels that get hit with shade during the day are made up for.
The total cost of both the new panels and the panels on the Beckett house — about $950,000 — is well worth it if it means eliminating a $120,000 per year electric bill, Doug said.
“By installing a very efficient system, if nothing else, we’ve increased the value of our real estate,” he said, adding that he encourages other businesses and residences to look into doing the same because at the very least, the long-term returns now outweigh the initial costs.
Once a few payments have been made on the current system, Doug said he already has plans to expand. Peachy Canyon’s Old School House tasting room is likely next in line to receive solar power.
But the move toward solar isn’t just a financial decision for the company.
“Peachy Canyon has always been very, very aware of its environment,” Doug said. “Of how much we contribute and how much we will impact the environment.”
Doug has worked toward making the winery as sustainable as possible, careful to minimize its impacts to air quality, water depletion and land abuse.
“Even if you just look at our vineyard at the Old School House, we left in the old oak trees, even though it creates various areas where you can’t plant grapes,” he said. “Because it allows for habitat, you have places for different creatures to live and hide.”
As a winery that makes a statement on the international marketplace, Doug explained that he believes it’s important for Peachy Canyon to set an example as an environmentally conscious producer.
“In this world, in the environment, there’s a give and take,” he said. “So though we are not the first winery to install solar power, we’re really proud to have joined that community. And we look forward to more wineries joining us.”