Three wineries, 17,000 solar panels producing nearly 3 megawatts

Locations: Clos Du Bois, Geyserville; Ravenswood, Sonoma; and Estancia Winery, Monterey County

Owner: Constellation Wines U.S.

Project manager and general contractor: Genesis Renewable Energy Inc., Sebastopol and Laguna Beach

Description: 2.84 megawatts of photovoltaic power generation at three wineries

Completion: December 2010

Electrical contractors: Umstead Electric, King City (Estancia); Knights Electric, Windsor (Ravenswood); Silverwood Energy, San Diego (Clos Du Bois)

Solar contractors: One Sun, Sebastopol (Estancia and Ravenswood); Silverwood Energy (Clos Du Bois)

Roofing contractors: SSB, Salinas (Estancia); Wine Country Roofing, Santa Rosa (all three wineries); Free Enterprise Inc., Santa Rosa (Clos Du Bois)

Engineering: structural and electrical -- Sustineo Corp., San Diego; structural for Clos Du Bois -- DEJ Structural Consulting Inc., Laguna Beach

Project cost: $13.4 million

[caption id="attachment_24924" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The first panels on the roof of the Clos du Bois winery in Geyserville were installed Sept. 13. (Jeff Quackenbush photo)"][/caption]

CALIFORNIA -- Constellation Wines U.S., one of the world’s largest wine companies and operator of several North Coast wineries, undertook one of the largest such projects for the wine industry this year.

The $13.4 million solar-electricity project is set to be complete in December at three of Constellation's California wineries -- Clos du Bois in Geyserville, Ravenswood near Sonoma and Estancia in Monterey County.

About 17,000 solar panels produce a total of 2.84 megawatts of direct-current power at the three wineries.

The Estancia system totals 1.127 megawatts of electricity production and is estimated to offset all the annual consumption of the winery.

The 583-kilowatt Ravenswood system also is projected to offset that winery's usage per year.

Clos Du Bois' 1.124-megawatt array is estimated to offset 75 percent of annual consumption.

"Clos Du Bois had one of the most challenging roofs in the country for a solar installation due to the architectural style of the building, featuring 26 degree pitched roofs," said Paul Gonzalez, a principal and head of finance for project manager and general contractor Genesis Renewable Energy. Formerly, he was a North Bay commercial real estate agent.

Design and safety challenges with that installation required close coordination with Constellation, according to Mr. Gonzalez.

[caption id="attachment_24925" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The new solar-power carport at Clos du Bois shown with Tesla Motors and Zap Jonway electric vehicles plugged into it. (Jeff Quackenbush photo)"][/caption]

Panels were installed at Constellation's winery near the Central Coast city of Gonzalez last year, offsetting 60 percent of electricity use. That brings the total size of Contellation's solar endeavor to nearly 3 megawatts in the past two years.

The latest round of projects was financed by Rabobank and partly paid for via federal and state incentives.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides a 30 percent tax incentive for solar projects this year.

The California Solar Initiative provides significant energy rate incentives for solar energy projects through Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

When the project was unveiled at Clos Du Bois in September, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, congratulated the wine industry for 19 solar projects completed so far in Sonoma County, producing a total of 2.5 megawatt-hours a year.

“As an organic grower myself, I know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s expensive,” he said.

Constellation expects the solar installations to save the company $1 million a year in energy costs.

Company Chief Executive Officer Rob Sands said the project is one of several examples that sustainability is not a catchword for the world’s largest wine producer.

“It’s important that people who make their living from the land be good stewards of the environment,” he said.

He noted that the company completed a carbon footprint analysis for its global operations in 2009 and this year. All 13 wineries and all eight vineyards totaling 12,000 acres are certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and post-crush grape waste is converted to energy.

The company is looking into more large solar installations, possibly at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville and Franciscan Estates winery in St. Helena.