Sunshine power

A Kelowna winery is relying on the Okanagan sunshine for more than just helping to grow grapes.

St. Hubertus Winery just installed 42 solar panels to cover 100 per cent of their power use through the daytime in the summer.

Leo Gebert said 12 years ago, the winery looked at installing solar panels, but it was too costly an endeavour.

“Now, it’s slowly to the cost with a payback time of 12, 13, 14 years versus never.... it makes more sense,” he explained.

Following the 2003 fire storm when St. Hubertus was looking to rebuild, Gebert and his brother wanted to ensure they were making energy efficient decisions for the business.

“I think we were one of the first ones to put all the hot water (heating) as solar, so all the buildings have solars on them (for heating water), and that was 12 years ago.”

Now, the recently installed 260-watt panels will provide 10,920 watts, or 10.92 kilowatts, of power.

According to Rob Monteith of Okanagan Solar, who installed the panels, an average household uses 13 kilowatts per year.

“So it (the winery’s panels) is fairly close to off-setting almost all of his annual consumption.”

The panels are on a grid tie system which produces electricity and if the panels create a surplus of energy it will return into the grid, through a net-metering agreement with FortisBC. The energy can be tracked online so Gebert can watch his consumption and gauge it's effectiveness, something he isn't able to do for the solar water heating system.

“A lot of people now are finding that solar (panel) systems have come down enormously in price in the last couple of years, and the equipment efficiency has gone up,” said Monteith, adding the St. Hubertus solar panel system will produce electricity for the next 30 years.

Gerbert says given the amount of sun the Okanagan receives, it was a natural decision to install the panels.

He will be watching to see how much of a surplus the winery takes in over the coming years and hopes the provincial government will look at rebates for green energy initiatives. The idea is to install additional solar panels atop other buildings on the property.


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