Notable wine regions in Italy, Germany and France already have FIT programs in place, while California and other states offer similar incentives based on government grants and rebates.

There's More Green to Vineyards than Just Grapes and the Next Great Harvest

A. Keranovic

Since the beginning of time, the sun’s vast energy has brought the world’s renowned vineyards into full bountiful harvest. And now, thanks to the Ontario government‘s precedent-setting renewable energy program,

Niagara’s vineyards are bringing another type of rewarding harvest to the table.

The Ontario Power Authority’s renewable energy Feed-In-Tariff program guarantees the purchase of electricity generated from solar and other renewable sources at extremely favorable rates. In addition, it has prompted several Niagara region wineries to consider going into the full time production of solar electricity for sale.

The enticing government program is paying independent power producers higher than retail market prices for the supply of clean, solar energy, for a guaranteed period of twenty years. Savvy Ontario vineyard owners are beginning to drink this offer up by the barrel.

“Unlike harvesting grapes, which requires exact timing at the risk of complete failure, harvesting and selling clean electricity generated from the sun is virtually maintenance free.” stated Mr. Brent O’Connor, Director of Energy Development at OSM SolarForm Canada Ltd., a leading Ontario based solar energy company involved in supplying photovoltaic modules to hundreds of grid connected projects across the Province.

“Grapes generally mature and are harvested from late August to late October, depending on the variety of the grape,” O’Connor adds, “whereas solar energy is generated all year round, creating great opportunities to vineyard owners who want to help preserve the environment while adding to their existing cash crops.”

For many winemakers across the globe, this relatively new way of generating additional revenues has been a no-brainer.

Several governments across Europe (where O’Connor’s company has also participated in erecting several projects) are purchasing solar electricity generated independently from local wineries through similar green initiative programs. Notable wine regions in Italy, Germany and France already have FIT programs in place, while California and other states offer similar   incentives based on government grants and rebates.

Pelee Island Winery & Vinyards Inc., located in Kingsville, Ontario, is just one winery that has already set the wheels in motion. The vineyard is in the process of adding a 100,000 square foot addition, which will give the facility more bottling capacity. The $6 million dollar expansion will host a 250 kW rooftop solar energy park, which will generate an estimated $4 million in additional revenues over the next 20 years, through the sale of clean electricity.

Given plentiful sunshine, high power bills, and an abundance of unused rooftop space, it is no wonder wineries across the globe are now realizing that going solar makes good economic sense. But the lucrative rates now offered in Ontario may not be available for much longer. Some members of Queen’s Park have already turned sour on the policy, pressuring parliament to reduce the current high premiums being offered, claiming that going green is costing too much green. As a result, provincial vineyard owners who are considering this limited time offer are now feeling the pressure to expedite their FIT applications with the Ontario Power Authority before the window of opportunity closes.

But the good news is that harvesting the sun’s energy has now become a trend in many wine countries across the world, and socially responsible, enviro-friendly wine producers have officially committed to reducing the production of harmful greenhouse gasses.

It sounds like whoever it was that said “Respect the land and it will deliver fruitful rewards” knew how to get a tasty return on their investment.

 


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