When King Estate Winery was established on 1,033 certified-organic acres near Eugene, Oregon, it was the first step toward becoming a leading sustainable vineyard. Continuing that commitment, the company turned to SolarCity to incorporate a solar system into its wine making, award-winning restaurant and tour operations.
Today, 974 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels are nestled beside rows of grape vines, and are expected to generate an annual production equivalent to 60% of King Estate’s energy usage.
Due to its size, King Estate’s installation came with complications. The utility needed to complete transmission upgrades to manage the large amount of power flowing into the grid. In addition to administering and financing the project, SolarCity coordinated with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Lane Electric Co-op, the rural electric distribution cooperative that provides electric service to its member-owners like King Estate. Ultimately, BPA and Lane Electric were able to provide power and a transmission system for integrating and transmitting power in conjunction with the solar system.
Lane Electric GM Rick Crinklaw noted, “This project fit perfectly with Lane Electric’s mission and vision for renewable energy. It’s good for our members, the co-op and the environment.”
The project is also helping Lane Electric solidify its future power supply needs and meet the State of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.
The goal was to be online and producing solar power by the start of the spring tourist season. SolarCity’s team broke ground in October 2011. One of the first projects involved sinking a transmission vault into the ground to house electrical equipment. For the wire conduit, the SolarCity team dug a series of three-foot-deep trenches, each running 200 to 400 feet across five acres. They also dropped a series of 50- to 90-inch steel support rods into the ground. Oregon’s winter rain and cold threatened to slow the project down, but SolarCity’s experienced project management team kept each step moving forward. Four months later, SolarCity and its partners met the spring deadline, and the system began generating energy.