Sonoma Wine Company To Lead The Green Movement For California Wineries

Cogenra at Sonoma Wine Company
Photo Credit: Cogenra Solar

As California sets out to lead the USA forward in green energy practices, Sonoma Wine Company of Graton in Northern California becomes one of the first California wineries to do the same. Under a pilot project for Cogenra Solar (formerly Skywatch Energy), a solar thermal/photovoltaic company merging technologies that produce both hot water and electricity, Sonoma Wine will undergo a $1.5 million research “test” using Cogenra’s technology to power and support their operations. This will supply the power and heat that the winery needs for its wine production. The program is funded by the California Solar Initiative Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration program.

The facility that Sonoma Wine Company uses has been around since 1947; it was converted to a winery in 1960 and went through several contract exchanges before being purchased in 2003 by Sonoma Wine Company. It’s a service provider to many Northern California wineries whose services include crush-to-bottle implementation. This means they do everything but grow and harvest the grapes. They bottle almost 3 million cases a year, crush over 7000 tons and ferment around 65,000 barrels. All of their winemaking practices are environmentally sustainable.

The project is a 272 kW system that reflects the sun’s rays into a solar panel array and directs it into a mirror which in turn heats water running through a line running above the solar array. Naturally, this produces hot water. What the project boils down to is that not all of the sun’s energy can be used as electricity (about 16%). The rest creates heat and is typically wasted. To maximize efficiency, this heat is also captured to make hot water. Cogenra plans to take their technology to the industrial and institutional world, where hospitals, jails and retirement communities would benefit. What better way to test its efficacy than with a California staple, a winery.

Though Sonoma Wine Company has invested in the $3 million project, they will not own the installation. Cogenra will be on hand to operate and maintain the system and sell off some of the excess electricity and heat produced and not used by the Sonoma winery. It is the hope that eventually Cogenra can create a tri-generation system from the study to incorporate electricity, heating and cooling. First they have to figure out how to store energy for peak times of use and coordinate it with the local gas and electric company through grid integration.

Cogenra plans to initiate the system at the Sonoma winery in November.

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