Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

More Australian wineries are turning to the sun, making the switch to solar power to help in wine production. Driven by rising costs of electricity from non-renewable sources, lower costs of solar power installation, and the potential benefits of producing own power, many wineries haven taken the bold step of investing in more renewable sources. By utilising solar energy for growing grapes and producing wines, wineries in Australia can both save on major costs and reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash

Electricity is the biggest expense in wine production

For most wineries in Australia, electricity is their largest expense item in the production of their wines. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) estimates that around 40% of expenditures of wineries go towards electricity, whilst the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) says that refrigeration eats up 50-70% of total power costs. Thus, it is no surprise that vineyards look for ways to reduce energy expenses.

Investing in renewable sources makes sense that will drive electricity expenditures down, lower overhead costs, and improve margins. For producers of quality Australian red wines, solar power not only reduces energy costs, but also maximises commercial roof space and reaffirms their commitment to a lower carbon footprint.

Incentive to attract investments in solar power

Solar power adoption surged in Australia in 2008, and even though costs of materials and installation were high, government incentives were also widely available until 2011. Between 2011-14, the prices of solar systems fell. From 2014 to present, there is relative stability in the solar system industry. Photovoltaic (PV) system prices are down significantly and there are existing incentive schemes for solar panels and batteries that are offered at state level, making investments in the area still attractive.

For 2020, interest-free loans up to $9,000 for a solar battery and $14,000 for a solar PV and battery storage system for households with an annual income of $180,000 or less are available. Under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, both households and smalls business in Australia that install small-scale renewable energy systems may be eligible for assistance to help with the purchase cost. Eligible participants may be entitled to small-scale technology certificates which can be sold to recoup a part of the purchase and installation cost.

Wineries adopt renewable power sources

An independent report produced by AgEconPlus revealed a 13% increase in the economic contribution of the wine industry since 2015 or an increase of roughly 3% per year. Strong wine exports are largely responsible for recovery in the wine sector. But, the competition is tough and the over 2,000 wineries in Australia have to stay competitive.

In fact, wineries were some of the earliest adopters of solar energy, with dozens in South Australia harnessing solar energy for wine production. Some wineries that have in excess of 100kW solar systems include D’Arenberg, Wirra Wirra, Sidewood, and Peter Lehmann. Recently, Pernod Ricard has become the first large wine company in the country to achieve 100% renewable electricity with the completion of Australia’s biggest combined winery solar installation. According to the winery’s chief operations officer, Brett McKinnon, “being sustainable and responsible is an important part of their business and they want to reduce their impact on the communities where they operate”.

Australian wineries recognise the opportunities to tap into solar energy and enjoy the cost-saving and environmental benefits. Using renewable sources not only lowers electricity costs, but also fulfils a company’s global-minded goals.

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Rolling With The Times: The Business Benefits of Going Green

While 90% of Australian businesses are interested in being environmentally sustainable, only half are actively doing their share, according to HP Australia. That is an interesting thought given that sustainable and eco-friendly technology is consistently improving. In order to get brands and businesses to be more environmentally aware, they must get a clear understanding of the benefits they can reap from solar panels and the like. So what sort of benefits exist? 

Energy Cost Savings and Rebates

One of the ways retailers can become green is by embracing energy efficiency. Solar panel technology is a gateway to energy cost savings and energy efficiency. It’s also an opportunity to earn more money. A good example of this is David Green of Melbourne who sheared off nearly $500 from his energy bill by installing solar panels. Beyond that, he was able to earn $800 from the government as any excess energy he generates gets sent into the grid which is distributed to other consumers. These are savings and earnings that savvy businesses can take part in and it’s all because of embracing eco-friendly solutions.

Green Fund Loan 

The Australian government is also embracing the sustainability movement and is actively empowering consumers to do the same. A common concern about renewable technology is the initial hefty cost that goes along with it. Australia’s answer to that is the Sustainable Australia Fund wherein consumers and businesses can offset the costs of solar panel installation prices through a loan that can be paid over a 20-year period. Needless to say, switching to sustainable technologies is an affordable and practical move that every business will benefit from.

Sustainable Consumer Benefit

Businesses listen to the loudest voice and this voice belongs to their consumers. Roughly 83% of Australians expressed that it was extremely important to them that brands offer environmentally friendly products and services, according to Accenture. From the packaging to the materials, consumers are now highly discerning about the brands they patronise. If a brand does not share a client’s conservation-led advocacy, those consumers are less likely to be customers. When brands do not adjust accordingly, their profit margins will eventually suffer. So businesses that embrace solar technology effectively attract consumers who are concerned about sustainability and the environment.

The concept of sustainability is not just a trend with benefits, it is virtually a necessity. Businesses must realise by now that being eco-friendly isn’t just a statement or a PR move. It is something that they and the community they are a part of will ultimately benefit from.

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The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society have launched a solar satellite which has been named the Lightsail 2. The solar sailing Cubesat device will be in orbit for the rest of August. Let’s learn more about the solar sailing technology and what the Planetary Society hope to achieve with the launch of this fascinating new piece of technology! 

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite (source: planetary.org)

The concept of ‘solar sailing’ means that an object will be moved by photons escaping the sun’s gravitational pull. According to Popular Mechanics, It’s the second ever solar sailing object to fly – with the solar satellite following IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) from Japan, which launched in 2010. IKAROS certainly has the cooler name, but the LightSail 2 has some superior technology – an aluminzed (a coating of aluminum alloy) Mylar sail and far better uptime.

“For The Planetary Society, this moment has been decades in the making,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye. “Carl Sagan talked about solar sailing when I was in his class in 1977. But the idea goes back at least to 1607, when Johannes Kepler noticed that comet tails must be created by energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission is a game-changer for spaceflight and advancing space exploration.”

“We’re thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2,” LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts said. “Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the sun, something that’s never been done before. I’m enormously proud of this team. It’s been a long road and we did it.”

If you’re interest in reading more, the Planetary Society have created a site named Mission Control where you’re able to track the LightSail 2 in space. To visit Mission Control please click here

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