Orofino Winery increases it’s environmental commitment with winery tasting buildings now powered completely by solar energy.
While the grapes thrive in the Okanagan’s 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, so does solar energy production.
Co-owners of the Cawston, B.C. winery, John and Virginia Weber, are proud. “Orofino is Canada’s only strawbale constructed winery,” says Virginia Weber. “Energy and eco-efficiency has been on the top of our mandate from the beginning. After seeing what companies like Red Circle Solar have done with solar power, we have always thought that solar power would work really well in our valley and this project reflects our goals of significantly reducing our energy footprint. This building will run on 100% renewable energy.”
The project uses a unique hybrid system of photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal collectors. The system was designed and constructed by Pro Eco Energy in Summerland, BC who are leaders in solar technology in Western Canada.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal water heating hybrid was found to be the most economical to meet the electricity and hot water needs of the wine buildings. Two glazed solar thermal collectors for $10,000, instead of 18 solar PV collectors, were more cost efficient for the building’s hot water needs. The solar energy is at both peak production and peak demand in summer when the winery receives the most visitors. The custom hybrid renewable energy system is unique to Orofino Winery, but John thinks there are over 80 wineries in BC alone that could also benefit from the design.
“It’s possible for wineries to cost-effectively install a renewable energy system to take care of their energy needs in perpetuity,” says Roger Huber of Pro Eco Energy Ltd. “Several Okanagan wineries are leading the energy movement towards renewables, and as an environmentalist and father, it makes me very happy to see it taking hold in Canada.”
The project was initiated after Orofino undertook a voluntary energy assessment through the Livesmart BC Energy Advisor Program where the winery was ranked in the top 10 out of 450 assessments completed by Livesmart. The Webers were encouraged to apply for the Livesmart BC Champions Program after discussing their goals of implementing solar power to reduce their carbon footprint. The project was designed and submitted for acceptance by the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines and partial funding was awarded under the Innovations category.
Orofino Vineyards is a six-acre property on the sun-drenched Cawston bench in the Similkameen Valley. Owners John and Virginia Weber produce handcrafted small lots of premium wines that have garnered numerous medals from top wine competitions.
Canada’s only strawbale winery was constructed in 2004/2005. “Earthy” 21 inch thick walls provide superior insulation qualities – ideal for manufacturing constant barrel room temperatures. Strawbale design has been around for over 200 years. The energy efficiency is unparalleled as walls are rated at up to R-60. The building is naturally cool in the summer and also retains heat well in the winter.