When King Estate Winery established itself on 1,033 certified-organic acres near Eugene, Oregon, it was only the first step toward becoming a leader in sustainable vineyards. Continuing that commitment, the company recently turned to SolarCity to bring solar energy its wine making, award-winning restaurant, and tour operations.
For a winery that avoids traps and poisons, and instead supports a population of owls, hawks, and other birds of prey to help control rodents and small birds that eat grapes, installing solar power was almost inevitable. Today, 974 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels are nestled beside rows of grape vines that produce Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, as well as organic fruit and vegetables, but the project did have challenges and a tight deadline. The annual production is equivalent to 60% of King Estate’s energy usage, but aggressive steps are being taken to decrease annual usage as well.
Cooperation of SolarCity, BPA, and Lane Electric Co-Op Completed the Project in 4 Months
Due to the size of the solar system, King Estate’s path to clean solar energy came with complications. The utility needed to complete transmission upgrades to manage the large amount of solar power flowing onto the grid.
In addition to administering and financing the project, SolarCity coordinated with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and the Lane Electric Co-op. Among its other functions, BPA is charged with providing power and a transmission system for integrating and transmitting power from federal and non-federal generating units. Lane Electric Co-op is the rural electric distribution cooperative that provides electric service to its member/owners in Lane County Oregon. Rick Crinklaw, Lane Electric’s general manager noted, “This project [dovetailed] 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 will also help solidify Lane Electric’s future power supply needs and help in meeting the State of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.
SolarCity Tackles Weather and Terrain Challenges to Keep the Project on Track
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. The SolarCity team successfully dug a series of three foot deep trenches, running 200 to 400 feet each, for wire conduits across five acres and 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 King Estate Winery’s dedication to environmentally conscious business practices.