Called a Floatovoltaic, the floating solar farm is comprised of solar panels hooked to pontoons made of plastic irrigation piping and set out to float on the winery’s irrigation pond. The system was designed and installed by SPG Solar, Inc. with technology developed by Thompson Technology Industries, Inc.
While testing for floating solar islands is in the works, Far Niente’s fleet of nearly 1,000 panels is the first floating solar farm in the solar industry and certainly in the wine industry. In combination with nearby land-based solar panels, the floating panels will produce all the energy the winery needs annually. Though creative, the technology is still expensive – despite the net-zero energy bill, it will still take about 12 years for the Floatovoltaic to offset the $7 million invested in creating and installing it.
The innovation was driven by the need to conserve valuable land space for vines. Instead of ripping out nearly an acre of Cabernet vines and losing $150,000 in wine production annually, Far Niente utilized the essentially empty space of their irrigation pond. Seeing this winery balance business savvy with sustainability and resourcefulness can go a long way in getting other businesses on the eco-wagon. This intelligent and practical use of space will hopefully entice more businesses and individuals to crank up their imaginations and invest in alternative energy like solar power.
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