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John and Virginia Weber on the roof of Orofino's tasting building. The photovoltaic panels are behind them and the solar thermal collectors in the foreground.

Winery powered by sunshine

Orofino’s voluntary energy assessment results in Livesmart financial assistance to go completely solar.

By Susan McIver T

he warm Similkameen sunshine that helps grow the grapes Orofino Winery transforms into premium wines also generates the power to run the winery. John and Virginia Weber, owners of the Cawston winery, recently announced the completion of a significant solar project that converts all the power consumption of its public tasting building from traditional power sources to solar power.

The Webers are assured of an abundance of solar power because the Similkameen and nearby South Okanagan enjoy about 2,000 hours of sunshine a year.

“We’ve always thought that solar power would work really well here and this project reflects our goals of significantly reducing our energy footprint. The tasting building will run on 100 per cent renewable energy,” Virginia said. The solar power project was initiated after Orofino undertook a voluntary energy assessment through the Livesmart BC Energy Advisor Program. The winery was ranked in the top 10 out of 450 assessments completed by Livesmart.

After discussing their goals of implementing solar power to reduce their carbon footprint, John and Virginia were encouraged to apply for the Livesmart BC Champions Program.

The project was designed by Pro Eco Energy of

Summerland and submitted for acceptance to the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Partial funding was awarded under the Innovations category.

“This program is part of the ministry’s investment in a green future for British Columbia,” John said. Based in Summerland, Pro Eco Energy provides award- winning heating and cooling systems for commercial and public buildings in Western Canada.

CEO Roger Huber has over 25 years of experience in solar and heat pump installations in Europe and has conducted more than 500 solar installations and solar system designs. The project uses a unique hybrid system of solar photovoltaic panels for generation of electricity and solar thermal collectors for heating water.

This hybrid system was found to be the most economical to meet the needs of the building.

Two glazed solar thermal collectors at the cost of $10,000 were more economical in meeting the building’s hot water needs than the 18 solar photovoltaic collectors that would have been needed to generate enough electricity to heat the same amount of water.

Photovoltaics is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors.

Peak production of solar energy in the summer coincides with the time of peak demand when the winery receives the most visitors.

At times the solar panels produce energy beyond the winery’s needs.

“We can see the dial feeding the power grid when that happens,” John said.

Orofino does not have a way to store the excess power. The solar water heating system produces more hot water

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013 19

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