July 11, 2012 | by Lisa Mattson

Prior to installing the new solar arrays behind the winery in 2012, Jordan Winery in Healdsburg chose to focus our efforts on a six-year program to reduce our energy consumption to the lowest possible level before becoming a solar powered winery. I felt strongly about reducing our energy use before converting to solar power. In the rush to get off the grid, many businesses have been ‘solarizing’ their inefficiencies—using the sun to power their overconsumption of energy. We too were tempted by the rebates and the desire to make our imprint on the Earth as small as possible, as fast as possible. But I’m glad we waited. Reduce use first: that’s been our guiding principle.

In this video, I discuss our long road to energy efficiency and the finale to all our reduction efforts: an American-made solar system—quite uncommon in this country due to the higher cost of U.S.-manufactured products. We hope that is going to change very soon. The array was projected to handle 75% of the winery’s electricity needs, but initial reports on the amount of solar power we are generating, even during the busy bottling season, indicate it could produce more than 90%. You can see the environmental impact of our solar use in real time.

Becoming a Solar Powered Winery

This journey started in 2006 with a comprehensive audit of the winery’s energy use–from facilities to the vineyards. Much has changed with technology since the construction of the Jordan chateau in the 1970s, so lots of equipment had to be adapted to the 21st century. From 2007 to 2011, we installed “cool roofs”, new refrigeration units, new warehouse doors, pre-insulated piping systems, PowerShaver USES® technology, LED lighting and also enrolled in PG&E ClimateSmart™ to reach its initial electricity-reduction goals. The winery’s electrical demand decreased by 25% due to this aggressive action program, and energy use was certified carbon neutral in 2009 through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

A federal grant in lieu of tax credit (which expires in 2012) helped offset nearly one-third of the cost of Jordan’s 454-Kilowatt (kW) solar system. I was able to secure American-made solar panels for a price comparable to Chinese-made panels, which were priced around 20% less in 2011 when we started the project. Jordan’s solar panels were made by Sharp in Tennessee, its DECK Monitoring system was manufactured in Oregon and Solectria inverters made in Massachusetts. China’s solar companies hold more than 60 percent of the global market, and we really wanted to be able to support the American economy. (According to The New York Times, the United States announced in May 2012 that antidumping tariffs would be levied on solar panels from China to help level the competitive playing field with American producers.) This trade dispute with China over solar panel manufacturing continues to be a hot topic.

Installed by Stellar Energy, Jordan’s solar system was built on a hillside behind the winery to maximize the southern exposure sunshine and preserve the traditional, elegant look of the winery chateau buildings.

California’s bountiful sunshine has nurtured our grapevines for 40 years, and this harvest, we’ll use that same sunlight to power all of our crush equipment for the 2012 vintage. American solar helping us make American wines–it’s a rewarding way to commemorate our 40th anniversary.