MendoCoastCurrent, May 27, 2008
Napa Valley winery Far Niente has gone live with its Floatovoltaic™ solar array, the first-ever system and technology of its kind in the solar industry. The installation, designed and installed by SPG Solar, with technology developed by Thompson Technology Industries, creatively couples photovoltaic energy with water, saving valuable vineyard acreage from being sacrificed for land-mounted arrays.
This unique solution came about as a meeting of the minds between Far Niente and SPG Solar. “We looked at several configurations for our solar array, but they all involved taking out a significant amount of our vineyard, which was not an attractive idea. Finally my partner, Dirk Hampson, suggested we find a way to put the panels on our irrigation pond. After interviewing several companies, it turned out that SPG Solar’s sister company, TTI, had developed the technology to float an installation on water, and we provided them with the opportunity to try it,” said Larry Maguire, Partner and CEO of Far Niente.
Far Niente’s Floatovoltaic system involves securing nearly 1,000 Sharp solar panels on pontoons that float on the winery’s vineyard irrigation pond. Combined with a section of about 1,300 panels located on land adjacent to the pond, the array will generate 400 kilowatts at peak output, enough to offset the winery’s annual power usage and provide a net-zero energy bill.
The Far Niente array is located in the 100-acre Martin Stelling Vineyard, which is the cornerstone of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon program and is located directly behind the winery. About one acre of vineyard was removed to accommodate the land-mounted portion of the system, but the floating array’s positioning on the pond saved another three-quarters of an acre of valuable Cabernet vines that would have been ripped out for a total land-mounted system. This is equivalent to about $150,000 dollars’ worth of bottled Far Niente Cabernet annually.
SPG Solar also installed an adjustable-tilt ground mounted system, developed by TTI, for Nickel & Nickel, Far Niente’s sister winery, which went live in October 2007 and brought in much of the harvest with solar power. Located in the Sullenger Vineyard on the Oakville winery’s estate, the array’s 1,904 Sharp solar panels generate 330 kilowatts at peak output, offsetting the winery’s annual power usage and providing a net-zero energy bill.
“We will always be committed first and foremost to producing great wines; it’s what we’ve been doing for over 25 years,” said Maguire. “Yet, we recognize that our environment is facing significant challenges, and as an agriculture-based business we have an obligation to do our part and take sustainable measures where possible