Grapes, solar panels share Finger Lakes vineyards

   30th Sep 2015

Monthly Archives: September 2015

Panel installation


The sun will soon play a bigger role for four Finger Lakes wineries, an area industry increasing turning toward solar power.

The latest four worked together on the switch: Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport; Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery in Lodi; Dr. Frank’;s Vinafera Cellars in Hammondsport, and O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards in Conesus.

Each winery has its own collection of solar panels, which, depending on the winery, are designed to produce 50 to 100 percent of their electrical needs.

“Each system is designed specifically for each winery,” said Suzanne Hunt, president of the energy advisory firm, Hunt Green LLC, and daughter of Hunt Country owners Art and Joyce Hunt. She recently relocated back to the area from Washington, D.C.

“Our family has made our living for five generations by harvesting the sun’s energy to ripen our grapes,” said John Wagner, co-owner of Wagner Vineyards. “Our installation of a large-scale solar array at Wagner Vineyards is a logical step for us to take as we continue to enhance our farm winery’s sustainability.”

Systems producing 109 kilowatts of electricity at Hunt Country and 51 kilowatts at Dr. Frank’s were completed this summer. Still in progress are systems that will produce 250 kilowatts at Wagner Vineyards and 62 kilowatts at O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest.

Hunt said solar power will produce 70 to 80 percent of the electricity needs at her parent’s winery, due to some technical limitations, and up to 100 percent at Wagner.

“The output will vary. It is very dependent on weather, the day, time and time of year,” Hunt said. “We sized the system to make as much power a winery thinks they will need over a year. At Hunt, the panels cover the roof of a production facility, tasting room and workshop.”

Solar panels are becoming increasingly visible in Finger Lakes Wine Country. Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen installed a 47-kilowatt system in 2012. Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan added a 150-kilowatt system this year. Penguin Bay and Silver Thread are among the other wineries that have or are in the process of adopting sun power.

Hunt said the four latest wineries converting to solar power can expect to eventually save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs, and recoup the cost of installing the system in five to eight years. After seven years, energy savings for Hunt Country will be in the range of $20,000 a year, she said. The panels, meanwhile, are American made and come with a 25-year warranty, she added.

“With the extraction, storage, and transport of fossil fuels there are always risks of leakage and accidents resulting in water, air, and soil contamination. There’s never going to be a solar spill,” said Joyce Hunt, Hunt country co-owner.

Environmental concerns are among factors driving investment in solar power.

“The cost of solar power has gone down dramatically from past years,” Suzanne Hunt said. “There are federal tax credits and state incentives,” she said, the latter being grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, NYSERDA, which promotes energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.

She also said New York’s ban on fracking and the current controversy over gas storage projects on Seneca Lake are driving interest in a clean energy alternative like solar among wineries and other area businesses.

Finger Lakes Wine Country, a tourism and marketing association, made the announcement Friday about the four wineries. It said their collaborative project will result in removal of about 460 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year for the life of the solar systems, which they said is the equivalent of planting nearly 200 acres of trees or eliminating about 35 million vehicle miles.

Hunt Country Vineyard already is using geothermal energy to meet its heating and cooling needs and also has a small wind turbine. Suzanne Hunt said, “We want to help demonstrate these technologies and hope other wineries will shift to them too.”

“One thing I know growing up on a farm is that winery owners are way too busy to become educated on solar power and financing it. As an adviser, I helped them understand,” Hunt said.

New York-based District Sun designed, developed and helped arrange financing for the solar systems at the four wineries, said its founder, Mar Kelly. Local contractors installed the systems.

“We invested tens of thousands of dollars to make the systems risk-free,” she said. “This can be a model project for other wineries and businesses.”

The wineries worked closely with New York Green Bank, which helped organize discussions among the wineries and local banks. Lyons National Bank, Tompkins Trust, Farm Credit, and Five Star Bank, all based in the Finger Lakes, provided financing.

“Farming, tourism, and viticulture have always been tough businesses, but increasing competition, rising energy costs, and a changing climate will make them even more challenging going forward,” said Suzanne Hunt.

Article By: Bob Jamieson

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The emerging competition comes as utilities and smaller solar installers fight over the future of the U.S. energy system. While the market for residential solar power remains a financial drop in the bucket for a big utility, the installation of solar panels overall grew by more than 50 percent in 2014 and is on track for another record-breaking year at time when the traditional utility business is pretty flat.

“The whole theory is you need to serve your customer or someone will serve them for you,” said Raiford Smith, a vice president at CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, where 3,000 customers are interested in getting utility-owned rooftop panels. “I think the entire market is in a race for rooftop.”

These moves may have a range of effects for customers. The utilities experimenting in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Texas could make solar more affordable for average consumers by energizing competition and driving down prices. Some utility programs may be beneficial to people who cannot afford big up-front investments, get affordable loans or find existing solar leases too cumbersome.

Smaller solar companies fear the incumbents will use their power to drive competitors from the market. After all, every time an installer puts solar panels on a home, a utility company sells less power and makes less money.

These experimental programs are one part of a bigger, yearslong battle between the solar industry and utilities. Since 2013, legislation to limit rooftop solar has been introduced in nearly two dozen states.

Some utilities like NV Energy in Nevada and PNM in New Mexico have debated charging solar customers special fees since they still buy electricity from the traditional utility system but end up paying less money to support common infrastructure. Even small fees could have big consequences since the financial decision to install solar panels can be a close call for many consumers.

Solar panels remain pricey, at least upfront.

For example, Gregg Dufort said he wanted to install panels on his Phoenix home but couldn’t justify spending $25,000 on an investment that he estimated would pay off in 20 years or more. He considered leasing solar panels, but found the multi-year leases would be difficult to end if he eventually sold or rented the property.

Instead, he became the first customer this year to lease part of his roof to Arizona Public Service Co., which installed all the equipment at its own cost. APS pays Dufort $360 in annual credits on his power bills. Arizona regulators capped the pilot program at 1,500 homes. So far, several dozen homes have been outfitted. Installations on another 500 homes are ongoing or will soon start.

“Somebody had to figure out a way to do it because we had this huge untapped energy source out here,” Dufort said. “And the prohibitive part of it is the cost.”

APS’ manager of renewable energy, Marc Romito, said the utility will use the program to test new equipment, batteries and distribution systems.

Critics accuse APS of rigging the system by undervaluing the solar energy, which lowers prices and makes it difficult for rivals to compete. APS generally faces less risk than competitors since regulators grant the monopoly guaranteed profits on all investments, including solar panels.

Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power started in July helping customers interested in solar energy analyze their electricity usage. A utility website refers customers to multiple installers, including one run by an unregulated wing of Georgia Power itself.

Regulators will be watching to see if Georgia Power uses the advantages of its monopoly electric business — for example, customer databases, advertising budgets or staff — to subsidize its commercial solar venture. So far, no formal complaints have been filed.

In Michigan, Consumers Energy is asking that it get paid a referral fee anytime it successfully connects a customer with a solar installer. It’s also offering financing for solar projects through a bank that specializes in home-improvement loans.

Bradley Klein, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said there should be a way for Consumers Energy customers to share their electrical usage data with any solar installer, not just those selected to participate in Consumer’s program.

“As these markets are opening. We want to make sure there’s full and fair competition and there’s not an unequal playing field,” he said.


Henry reported from Atlanta.

Article By: Ray Henry and Susan Montoya, Associated Press

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Fossil fuels are here to stay, but solar energy will play a bigger role in our energy mix than many think.

I’ve worked on oil platform design. I’ve worked with oil companies on four continents (North and South America, Europe, and Asia). I live in Houston. And I spend about three-quarters of my time working on oil and gas issues. In short, I’m an oil guy.

But I am also bullish on solar.

There is no contradiction here. The point of energy is to move people around the world, to keep us warm (and cool), and to power an industrial economy that has created more wealth in the last 150 years, by far, than in any other time.

There are lots of ways to provide energy. Which technology makes sense at any given time is a matter of geography, economics, and policies. And what I am seeing is that solar is building potential on all three dimensions, for three reasons.


installation-chartUS Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

In principle, solar cannot perpetually depend on the government’s helping hand; it needs to make its case in the market, which it is beginning to do. In states where the price of power is high, such as Hawaii, solar is already at “grid parity” with conventional sources, which need to be imported. (One in eight homes in Hawaii has rooftop solar.) But there is little doubt that at the moment that helping hand is, in fact, helping.

  • Sun-rich countries are getting serious. This matters because solar obviously has the most low-cost potential in places that get a lot of sun. And many of those places, both rich (Saudi Arabia, Dubai) and poor (South Africa, Kenya) are taking notice. Last year, oil-rich Dubai signed a deal with ACWA, a Saudi holding company for a 100 MW solar plant at a record-low price of 5.98 cents a kilowatt hour. And Saudi Arabia itself has big plans. Saudi Aramco, the state-owned enterprise that is the world’s biggest oil company, is building 10 domestic solar plants; all told, the Kingdom is talking about building 41 gigawatts of solar PV by 2032, or enough to meet about 20 percent of its power needs.


The most interesting developments may be coming from countries that are short of power of all kinds, with all the limitations that implies in terms of economic development and human health. In 2014, the World Health Organization estimated that indoor air pollution, caused mostly by unsafe cooking practices using wood, dung, or charcoal, kills 4.3 million people a year.

So it makes sense that as costs come down, a number of developing countries are seeing solar as a realistic option. India has an ambitious agenda, known as theNational Solar Mission, which seeks to install 100 GW of solar by 2022. South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) has proved effective at generating private-sector investment—$14 billion since 2011. And because South Africa is the economic engine of the region, its success could spawn imitators. Kenya, where only 30 percent of the population is connected to the grid, is home to a very different model. Homeowners pay up front a fraction of the price for a solar lamp and pay a daily fee of about 45 cents for a year, using their cell phones. After that, the customer owns the device, which is cheaper and safer than kerosene, and of course cleaner. (These lamps now come with a solar-powered radio and mobile phone charger.) Launched in 2013, this is still a relatively small experiment, with about 200,000 users, but it is growing fast. In terms of making the economics of solar work for the poor, it is well worth watching.

So that’s the case that solar has a sunny future, and I believe it is sound. What I do not believe is that the end of fossil fuels is nigh. As the US Energy Information Administration noted in July, for every year since 1900, some combination of fossil fuels (petroleum, gas, coal) has made up at least 80 percent of the country’s fuel mix. Moreover, the EIA analysts conclude, “the predominance of these three energy sources is likely to continue into the future.” The International Energy Agency also sees them continuing to play a crucial role, although a lesser one (from 68 percent of power generation in 2012 to 55 percent in 2040).

There is room for both; in fact, there is a need for both.

Scott Nyquist is a global leader in McKinsey’s oil & gas practice and also its Sustainability & Resource Productivity Network. He writes a column for LinkedInon energy and environmental issues.

Article By: Scott Nyquist

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Scientists at Brunel University London have designed a new hybrid roofing system which could halve energy bills in new homes.

The patented new system harnesses a unique mixture of technologies to pre-heat domestic hot water for radiators, baths and showers while also generating electricity. More than half of domestic energy use in the UK is to heat water.

At its heart is the use of heat pipes — super conductors of heat energy — found in high tech devices from PCs to the International Space Station where they prevent it from melting in the heat of the sun on one side and freezing in the vacuum of space on the other.

Dr Hussam Jouhara of Brunel’s Institute of Energy Futures, who led the British team which developed the new system explained: “As a professional engineer with a long-term research interest in heat pipes I could see many advantages in applying this technology to a renewable energy system.”

“Until now there was no system which fully addressed all the technical and practical issues that face making an entire building’s roof a solar-powered generator of both heat energy and electrical energy.”

Heat pipes seemed to Dr Jouhara an obvious solution to a major technical issue with solar cell or photovoltaic (PV) panels used to generate electricity.

“PV panels have an inherent challenge to the engineer,” he said. “The more intense the sunlight the more electricity the cells will produce but only a fraction of the sun’s energy can be turned into electricity.

“So the sunnier it is the more of that unusable energy hits the cell which, in turn, heats it up. As PV cells heat up their electrical generation ability is degraded. Heat pipes, in this case, constructed in flat panels 4m x 400mm, will whisk that away to heat domestic hot water.”

In proof of concept tests, PV cells cooled by Dr Jouhara’s methods outperformed identical panels by 15 per cent. And rather than being wasted, almost the full spectrum of energy from the sun is harnessed.

The new system also addresses a wide range of practical issues in installing solar panels in new properties.

Attempts to integrate installing solar panels with conventional roofing techniques have a poor track record.

“What was needed was an engineered, systems approach,” said Dr Jouhara. “Our solar panels are PV coated for the most southerly-facing aspect of the roof and are designed to clip together as a weather-tight roof as simply as clicking together laminate flooring.

“When we constructed our test roof using standard “off-the-shelf” roof trusses, tradesmen were able to quickly and easily screw together the panels with no extra guidance than a simple set of written instructions.

“The heat pipe technology also turns the biggest downside of integrating solar panels into conventional roofs into a positive.

“Currently the panels would get hottest in the summer and roofs need to be designed to dissipate that heat. Simply insulating the house below is not a good solution as that simply traps it driving up the PV panel temperature and further lowering its performance. With our system there is no waste heat.”

The solar roof is now undergoing extensive further trials at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Watford where a prototype is powering a standard UK three-bedroom detached house.

And already there has been one unexpected finding. “Our flat heat pipes are so efficient that they can actually capture the energy from early morning dew evaporating off the trial roof,” added Dr Jouhara.

Source: Brunel University

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Brunel University.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. H. Jouhara, J. Milko, J. Danielewicz, M.A. Sayegh, M. Szulgowska-Zgrzywa, J.B. Ramos, S.P. Lester. The performance of a novel flat heat pipe based thermal and PV/T (photovoltaic and thermal systems) solar collector that can be used as an energy-active building envelope material. Energy, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/

The irony is contained in what’s not in the budget: a continuation of the state’s renewable-energy tax credit. Until now, North Carolina has been a national leader in adopting alternative energy, especially solar. If you drive through farm country around here, you’ve seen it – thousands of acres covered by photovoltaic panels aimed to take best advantage of our abundant sunshine.

The tax credit helped foster the industry through its infancy and into growing competitiveness. The installation of solar farms has created thousands of jobs and sent lucrative lease payments to farmers who have taken loss after loss as former cash crops like cotton and tobacco have lost their value.

But at the end of this year, the tax credits will be gone. And so will the solar-energy companies, who will likely flee to neighboring states that saw our success and implemented their own alternative-energy incentives.

Why are our legislative leaders so determined to undermine success? For the same reason they dismantled other tax-credit programs: They’re ideologues, not pragmatists, and they’re determined to impose their politics on all of us, even if it sends jobs elsewhere – as it already has in the film industry, which has moved its Southern epicenter from Wilmington to Atlanta. Georgia prospers as filmmakers pump millions into local economies – money that once fueled thousands of jobs here.

The assault on alternative energy was pushed enthusiastically by the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries that mostly is seeking to fulfill the arch-conservative brothers’ agenda – and not coincidentally help the fossil-fuel-related portions of the Koch business empire.

But for the rest of us, it’s not about prosperity. Especially in the long term, because no matter what the Koch machine is directing its North Carolina puppets to do, our real prosperity lies in developing the energy sources of the future, not the past. Solar energy is at the threshold of major breakthroughs that will transform American energy sources and policies.

That’s why former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers is traveling the country and the world to talk about renewable energy, and especially solar. The man who once presided over the country’s largest investment in power plants running on fossil fuels said in a WUNC interview earlier this month that, “I believe that solar electricity will be cheaper than building huge central station plants, transmission lines and distributions.” Rogers believes this is the way to bring electricity to the rest of the developing world.

And in North Carolina, Rogers reminds us that power plants become obsolete and have to be replaced. Duke is doing that across the state now. Solar technology, he said, may be the right replacement, instead of gas-powered conventional plants.

Just a few months ago, Elon Musk, the billionaire who developed the electric-powered Tesla automobile, unveiled a new battery technology that can turn solar energy into 24/7 power for a home – or scaled up, for a whole community. The system is new and a little pricey yet, but battery technology is evolving fast and getting cheaper with each generation. So is the price of solar panels. We’re only a few years away from its being an affordable alternative for most of us who own homes.

And so our leaders have decided to drive the business away. Maybe it’s time for the voters to drive some of our lawmakers away. That option is starting to have a lot more appeal.

Tim White is the Observer’s editorial page editor. Follow him on Twitter @WhatTimSaid. He can be reached at 486-3504 or You can discuss this column online by going to and clicking on today’s column.

Article By: Blair Schooff

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 Screen capture MAS Charlotte

From plans for 6,000 solar-powered mosques in Jordan to a community-funded solar mosque in Turkey, many muslims across the world have been embracing clean energy.

Now a mosque in Charlotte, North Carolina is aiming to also do its part in promoting creation care—partnering with a local solar company to encourage 40 congregants to install solar on their homes, and in return receiving a 32.24 Kw solar array as a donation from PowerHome Solar, located in Moorseville, NC.

The nature of the arrangement is, in part, because North Carolina’s regulated energy market makes it extremely hard for faith communities to benefit from the various clean energy incentives. Here’s how the press release from the Mosque sums up the challenge:

“This financing model is innovative in a state that presents many barriers for faith institutions to go solar. North Carolina is one of only four states in the country that forbids the third party sale of electricity—meaning that it is illegal to buy electricity from any entity besides the regulated monopoly utility. This ban makes it difficult for faith institutions and other non-profits without a tax appetite or upfront capital to access renewable energy. Furthermore, with North Carolina’s 35 percent renewable energy tax credit set to expire at the end of the year, people across the state—including MAS congregants—are eager to get their share of solar while they can.”

Members of the mosque emphasized that they want this project to serve as a model for others. With the launch of the recent Islamic Climate Declaration by faith leaders from around the world, there is a growing push within this community for adopting solutions to climate change. Here’s how Osama Idilbi, president of MAS Charlotte, set out the moral and religious case for going green:

“There are many verses in the Qur’an explaining how God has made us stewards of the earth. With this solar project, our intent is to create a way for our members to tread lightly on creation, conserve resources, and lead by example. We want solar for MAS because we believe there are better ways to get energy—ways that don’t pollute our water or create conflict. We hope this project will serve as a model and create a ripple effect of peaceful solutions.”

Meanwhile a church in Greensboro has been directly challenging North Carolina’s ban on third party solar sales, installing solar panels that were paid for by activist group NC WARN and then paying NC WARN for the electricity that is generated.

Article By: Sami Grover

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One key method of increasing solar adoption and deployment across the world is to focus on reducing the soft costs — those fees, red tape, and other bureaucratic inefficiencies that make it difficult for customers to actually get solar power installed. But a grant awarded this week at Solar Power International (SPI) seeks to start to chip away at those problems.

The Solar Foundation (TSF) announced that it was awarded a three-year $10.3 million grant during SPI as part of a larger U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative funding announcement that was made by Vice President Joe Biden during the show.

With the money, which significantly boosts TSF’s budget and staff, the organization will work to designate 300 “solar friendly” communities across the country. According to Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of TSF, the grant will enable the organization to help 300 or more cities and counties “make progress and meet criteria so that they can achieve recognition to be considered a solar friendly city or an open-for-business solar city,” which could lead to increased manufacturing, installation operations or other local solar businesses being located there.

“Local governments are uniquely positioned to take action to make solar more affordable in their jurisdictions and to unlock the economic development benefits associated with increased solar deployment,” she said.

TSF has not selected any of the 300 yet but Luecke said that there are some likely targets such as all 25 of the original Solar America cities, designated as such in 2008 through a grant from the DOE. Previously Luecke was involved with running the city of Milwaukee’s Solar America Cities program. “I had a $3 million budget and worked to create one of the first PACE [property assessed clean energy] programs in the country,” she said, adding that she also helped the city procurement office write several solar RFPs, (“they had no idea how to do it”) and streamlined permitting, created a solar hot water business association, worked with local utility, We Energies, to create solar programs and more. “We did all of these great things and Solar America Cities was so successful,” she said. “This funding opportunity was written basically to re-vitalize it.”

In addition to those original Solar America cities, Luecke’s team will be looking at the cities whose mayors have signed the Mayors Climate Pact; California cities because the state passed a bill in 2014 that mandates streamlined permitting and many more across the country.

Communities pursuing designation will receive technical assistance from the TSF team aimed at supporting the staff who will lead local efforts to improve or streamline policies and processes, develop solar programs, and otherwise qualify their communities for designation.

The Solar Foundation’s efforts will be supported by a team of national local government membership  organizations and solar energy experts, including the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Meister Consultants Group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Electric Power Research Institute, the Regulatory Assistance Project, and Brooks Engineering, LLC.

Together, the team will provide technical assistance to local governments both directly and through a national program to select and place highly-qualified fellows in local governments. Fellows will provide expertise in making recommendations for policy and process improvements and temporary staff support for ensuring these solutions are fully and properly implemented. Upon selection, fellows will attend a week-long training, orientation, and networking event, followed by their deployment to communities, where each will perform a baseline assessment of the policies and processes affecting soft costs locally and devise actionable plans for qualifying the community for designation. Each fellow will be provided with competitive stipends over the four to six months of their appointment.

“The fellows are a core component of our strategy for delivering expert guidance,” said Philip Haddix, the TSF Program Director. “Through their participation, fellows will receive an unparalleled opportunity to gain hands-on experience in local solar issues and become the next generation of solar policy and market leaders.”

Lead image: PV Panel. Credit: Shutterstock.

Article By: Jennifer Runyon

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