It’s considered settled science that drinking wine in moderation offers numerous health benefits against heart disease, strokes, and cancer, among others.
Now when it comes to Virginia wines, scientists can add saving the environment, saving money and creating jobs to the long list of advantages. And, visitors to two vineyards along the Shenandoah Valley’s Monticello Wine Trail can see the benefits of solar, while enjoying award-winning wines.
“The wine industry is moving to the renewable energy model. It’s not just for California,” said Parke Rouse, the assistant winemaker at Rockbridge Vineyards. “It’s so important for anyone involved in agricultural businesses to help sustain the natural world. It is in their best self-interest. They literally are reaping the benefits of nature, and helping preserve that is a vital way for us to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Another vineyard going solar is the Glass House Winery in Free Union where the owners, Jeff and Michelle Sanders, “cultivate these grapes with meticulous care at our winery, while striving to treat the Earth of Virginia as respectfully and gently as possible in the process.”
Sigora Solar installed the photovoltaic systems, and sees the combination agribusinesses and tourist spots like vineyards as a perfect fit for their products.
“It’s only natural for a state with such beautiful resources to be home to a number of eco-tourism sites,” said Logan Landry, Sigora Solar’s CEO. “We’re proud to be a part of this movement that will add amazing businesses like these vineyards to the number of locations that offer great products and beautiful settings, while saving the environment and creating jobs.”
Rouse said Rockbridge’s solar system is an attraction for visitors, “It looks cool, and people love it. There is a market for people that appreciate environmental conscientious. Sharing that with people is important to us, it’s a demonstrative way to tell what our values are.”
Jeff Sanders noted that Glass House Winery already used geothermal energy for its tasting and winemaking facility, and now the bed and breakfast and wine storage buildings should run almost completely off Sigora’s solar installation. He said, “Many customers appreciate the effort we put into minimizing our energy use and using great care environmentally in tending our vineyard.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe agrees.
Under his leadership, the Virginia Tourism Corporation promotes an entire list of eco-tourism locations including hotels, restaurants, breweries and wineries.
And in April, the governor announced that an economic impact study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business, shows that Virginia’s agritourism industry accounts for $2.2 billion in economic activity. The report also shows that the economic activity attributed to the Commonwealth’s 1,400 agritourism businesses supports 22,000 jobs, contributes $840 million in income, and injects $135 million in state and local taxes. The study is the first statewide benchmark report to measure the economic and fiscal impacts of Virginia’s agritourism sector.
In addition, according to a report by National Public Radio, solar jobs now outnumber coal mining jobs in Virginia.
Visitors to the two vineyards will enjoy knowing the wineries are doing their part for the environment.
The Glass House Winery installed a 30.2 kW photovoltaic (solar) system that will offset 29.7 metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. It is the equivalent of planting 28 acres of forest.
The Rockbridge Vineyard makes 23 different wines and now enjoys a 21.6 kW photovoltaic system on its largest building – the tasting room. The system will cut the vineyard’s electricity bills by more than 85 percent, while offsetting 20.7 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. The system is the equivalent of planting 20 acres of forest.
Rouse says the system will pay for itself in just a few years. In addition to reducing the vineyard’s electricity bills, Glass House and Rockbridge each received a 30% federal tax incentive, and are competing for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program Grant to further reduce the payback period.
News item from Sigora Solar