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another alternative winery
9 jul 2000
from "alternative energy sources for a winery," a recent story
in wine east magazine by richard carey and linda jones mckee...

evergreen valley vineyards [vintner@evwinery.com] opened in 1997 as
pennsylvania's, and perhaps the nation's only winery [the authors didn't
know wild hog]... not connected to the electrical power grid. instead,
mark gearhart, the owner and winemaker... has devised ways to supply
all the energy needs for the winery from alternative sources... 

in the early 1980s, mark planted fifty different varieties of grapes
at his house outside of luthersburg in northwestern pennsylvania. this
was an experiment... he had no idea what would grow and there was no
recent history of viticulture in that part of the state... the southern
exposure and steady breezes provided a climate that allowed some grapes
to survive and prosper. as a result, mark began to look for the right
place to plant a more substantial vineyard. he reasoned that the property
needed to be near a road and should have access to city water, phone 
lines, and electricity.

finding a site in pennsylvania's coal country turned out to be... more
complicated than just finding land with a good microclimate. much of
the area was forested... converting this type of land into a productive,
disease-free vineyard can take as long as ten to fifteen years. other
land... had been strip-mined for coal and was unsuitable for grape
growing. farmland that was in production often was owned by a farmer
who either didn't want to sell or wanted to sell only at the high prices
usually paid by coal companies... it became apparent to mark that the best
type of land to look for was property that had already been strip-mined,
but where the topsoil had been piled up during the stripping process and
then mixed as it was returned to cover the stripped area. it was also
important to find land... out of bond (a legal aspect of coal mining.) 

after searching for four years, mark found a 64-acre farm less than a
mile from his home. he and his parents purchased the property in 1990
and planted the first blocks of grapes in 1992... once the vineyard was
established, mark began to plan for the construction of the winery.
water and a phone line were no problem, and technically neither was
obtaining power, as there was a transmission line about a mile from
the winery site. however, the power company estimated that it would
cost at least $25,000 to run electricity to the winery [and wanted]
guaranteed payment for a minimum monthly number of kilowatts [sic]
after the initial installation, an amount that was several times
larger than... the monthly electric usage. mark was an engineer by
training and decided that he could supply his own power at a much
lower cost.

the first step for mark... was to use a car battery to run his
answering machine and a few lights... this was marginally acceptable,
but in the long term it was expensive because of the cost of the gas
used to run his jeep to recharge the battery and the potential
increased cost of maintenance on the jeep. 

when the decision is made to generate power... the next step is to
rethink each energy decision in light of the ability of the independent
system to supply the power required to operate the necessary equipment.
in addition, redundancy must be incorporated into your system and
expected electrical loads must be examined with regard to your power
[system's ability] to regenerate and store power energy [sic] so there
is always sufficient power...

in the next step... mark added a 40-watt solar power panel. this panel
could be adjusted according to the seasons and the angle of the sun.
however, solar panels are useless when the weather is gray and cloudy,
as it inevitably is in northwestern pennsylvania during the winter...
when power is needed in a winery... after the grapes are harvested and
the winemaking process has begun. 

on a clear sunny day, a 40-watt panel generates 40 watts of power per
hour [sic] from about 1 hour after sunrise to 1 hour before sunset.
thus, on an average sunny day one can expect to produce 300 watt hours
per day for either storage or immediate use. cloud cover reduces the
effectiveness... to a significant degree... dependent on the decrease
in incident solar radiation. in general, solar radiation delivers 1 kw
per square meter and the solar cells used by mark are typical in that
they are about 5% [sic] efficient... therefore, based on the climate
in the northwestern region of pennsylvania during the summer, a 40-watt
solar panel can create enough power [sic] to run a 100-watt light bulb
for about 5 hours a day but during the winter that would be reduced
to only 2 hours. 

to increase the efficiency of his lighting, mark uses a combination of
inverter powered ac fluorescent lights consisting of 40-foot, 25-watt
tubes [?!], and dc lights that approach 100% efficiency in converting
wattage from the battery bank to fluorescent light wattage. he also
searched for dc alternatives for other appliances and became very good
at making sure that an appliance is designed to be on only when it is
really needed... 

mark needed an additional energy source that was inexpensive... the one
abundant resource consistently available at his location was the wind
that blew from the valley to the ridge... steady throughout the better
portion of each day, building from...10-15 mph in the morning to a steady
35-45 mph in the afternoon. mark jokes that they wouldn't define it to
be a truly windy day until sustained levels exceed 70 mph with gusts
above 100 mph! the constant "breeze," as mark refers to the wind, is
the reason that the site has been successful in protecting the grapes
from extremes of cold... importantly, these winds occur many times when
the sunlight is at the lowest or non-existent levels...

mark's "windmill" is a small high-tech model that utilizes innovative
circuitry and... carbon-fiber blades. the propellors are situated about
3 feet above the roof of the winery where the wind generator can...
produce 388 watts/hour [sic]...

two additional solar panels... supply power to the electric deer fence
that surrounds the entire vineyard and... the small building that houses 
the winery's bathroom... to charge a battery to run the lights.

to augment the wind generation system... the winery has a propane tank
that provides fuel for gas lamps and a gas refrigerator. an on-demand
hot-water heater [sic] provides the necessary hot water for the winery.
mark has calculated that a conventional heater uses about one gallon of
propane per day to keep the pilot light lit and to incrementally keep
the volume of water heated for use...

certain tasks in a winery... particularly during crush... make a much
greater demand on power than at any other time throughout the year.
to handle... the crusher and press... a large capacity generating system
was necessary... mark found a diesel-powered generator in army surplus
and uses it... for the press and crusher...

examining the winery's bottom line... mark has had good success... the
initial investment to bring conventional power sources to the winery
plus the minimum monthly bills... since opening the winery in 1997 would
have cost mark just under $30,000. his expenditures for alternative power
have been less than $5,000. [including labor], the total savings is still
about $20,000. as time goes on, these savings will increase at the rate
of the monthly minimum, less any maintenance necessary...

nick




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