"Solar power takes root at King Estate Winery"
LORANE, Ore. -- The production has just powered up at the King Estate Winery. Four acres of solar panels have been "planted" on the 1,033-acre certified organic farm 20 miles southwest of Eugene, Ore. A stone's throw from rows of green-leafed winegrapes are rows of silver solar panels. The recently constructed system features 4,144 panels that will annually produce 1.2 million to 1.3 million kilowatts.
BY: Craig Reed
LORANE, Ore. -- The production has just powered up at the King Estate Winery.
Four acres of solar panels have been "planted" on the 1,033-acre certified organic farm 20 miles southwest of Eugene, Ore. A stone's throw from rows of green-leafed winegrapes are rows of silver solar panels. The recently constructed system features 4,144 panels that will annually produce 1.2 million to 1.3 million kilowatts.
Officials said it's the largest solar power system at a winery in the Pacific Northwest, and rivals the largest for California wineries. They said there are solar systems at other wineries in the Willamette Valley, but none as large.
The King Estate system is expected to eliminate more than 38 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years. Based on estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, that's the equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3,381 passenger cars or 1.9 million gallons of gasoline. The King Estate system is large enough to offset the annual power use of approximately 100 residential homes, according to the EPA.
Ed King, the CEO and co-founder of King Estate Winery, is thrilled that the system is operating after about five years of discussions and four months of construction.
"It's a home run," he said of the project during a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 14. "Our philosophy (at King Estate) is rooted in sustainable agriculture and environmentally conscious business practices. Being an organic farm, this fits. It's very cost effective."
King Estate Winery has a 470-acre organic vineyard. The property is certified organic by Oregon Tilth.
The partners in the solar project with King Estate were Lane Electric Cooperative of Eugene, Ore., Solar City, a nationwide company based in San Mateo, Calif., and Advanced Energy Systems of Eugene.
"When we started talking about it, we decided we wanted something bigger (rather) than smaller," said King. "We weren't sure what the possibilities were so we asked a lot of questions. It was an uphill battle until we found the right partners. Then all together we were able to make something extraordinary happen."
King Estate provided the land. Solar City provided the funding. Advanced Energy Systems installed the system. Lane Electric has a 15-year contractual commitment to purchase all the energy with an option to extend.
State and federal incentives were secured for the project.
"We're really proud of what's gone on here," said Eric Nill of Advanced Energy Systems. "It's very admirable. This is a project that will have a life beyond anybody here."
King said he's pleased to show the wine industry that sustainable practices are not only environmentally sound, but also make sense.
"The future depends on the examples we establish today," he said. "In building this solar facility, we haven't solved all the world's problems, but we're trying to help get there. We've planted our tree so people in the future will live better. It's sustainable energy that can support the population on the planet without producing any carbon dioxide.
"This can be duplicated, and done again and again and again," he said. "We've got a demonstration project done here now and we hope to see more of these constructed. We're at the crossroads of energy and whether it's wind, wave or solar, it's within our reach to become the first self-sufficient state if we think big enough."