Sonoma County energy program hopes winery will be example to others

KENWOOD -- Kunde Family Estate winery thinks it can cut energy use by more than three-quarters by allowing the sun to preheat hot water used for cleaning. The project is being eyed as a pilot financing venture to navigate hundreds of other Sonoma County wineries toward much less energy consumption for heat and refrigeration.

The family has county of Sonoma approval to have Citizen Green Solutions  install 50 solar collectors on the entire back of the winery roof to boost the temperature of water going to the boiler and then to the caves for barrel washing and to the bottling line for sterilization, according to winery President Don Chase.

The solar thermal heating system is expected to cost $110,000 for the collectors, a 1,000-gallon storage tank, piping and labor.

"We could have paid for this through our line of credit," Mr. Chase said. "The county was looking for examples to market to the rest of the wineries in the county, and it's not a bad program with financing."

The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program is looking to use the Kunde project in a marketing campaign to wineries this spring for financing energy-efficiency projects via payments on their property tax bills, according to spokeswoman Amy Bolten. Similar programs are being considered in other North Bay counties.

Yet such financing for photovoltaic arrays and other costly systems often is extended after a homeowner or business operator commissions an audit of property energy use through the local government or utility.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. offers winery energy audits through BASE Energy of San Francisco. In early 2010 an audit for "embedded energy" in wastewater treatment system for agriculture and food processors will be offered.

In 2008 PG&E paid $2.6 million in energy-efficiency incentives on 174 projects at wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties, according to Jim Salomone, ag and food processing supervisor for the PG&E Customer Energy Efficiency Department in the North Bay. Through November of this year, the utility had paid $1.4 million in such inducements on 154 projects.

However, the window for certain incentives is closing, according to Mr. Salomone. The bar for energy-efficiency for refrigerated warehouses in California power-wise building codes, Parts 1 and 6 of Title 24, is set to rise early next year.

Incentives are intended to prompt upgrades above what is required by law. Because greater amounts of roof and wall insulation ­– R-28 for chilled buildings larger than 3,000 square feet – will be required next year under Title 24, those elements of projects would be ineligible for incentives, according to Mr. Salomone.

"We're always getting repeat customers," he said. "We do not have a customer who does everything at once."

For more information, call 707-521-6200 or visit www.sonomacountyenergy.org. To reach Citizen Green Solutions, visit www.citizengreensolutions.com. To reach PG&E's Business Service Center, call 800-468-4743 or visit www.pge.com/mybusiness/energysavingsrebates/incentivesbyindustry/agriculture.