Cape Jaffa Solar installation
Cape Jaffa Wines made a huge step towards meeting their sustainability mantra with the installation of 297 solar panels on their winery roof with a capacity of 81KW. Coupled with 96x 400Ah lithium battery cells to store power for use on those odd days (and nights) when the sun isn’t shining, this is expected to create an emissions savings of about 60 CO2e per year.
‘Our sustainability conscience has certainly led us on a journey of discovery, and a journey that I feel is a perpetual one’. Back in 2009, the company began to recognise the fact that running a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard created a degree of expectation from customers that this meant the business was ‘green’. ‘While there are many aspects of what we were doing in the vineyard that can be considered environmentally friendly, to truly be ‘green’ means so much more than running a biodynamic vineyard’. Cape Jaffa has taken a more holistic approach to sustainability recognising weak spots, priority areas and risks across the entire business and working to continually improve on these.
The winery has grappled with the fact that out on the Cape they are distanced from the national three phase power grid which supplies the necessary current for most winery equipment. To date they have relied on load matched diesel generators for their three phase power requirements. Although the company were early adopters of solar technology in the office and cellar door area, to make use of solar power generation in the winery they either needed to either store power or have the support of a three -phase grid connection. For a long time this has not been considered economically viable for the business and they were unsuccessful in a number of Government grant applications for renewable energy due to this unique situation. Its only now that the cost of both solar and battery storage have come down, that the business case has stacked up.
Another challenge facing all wineries, is that the production process is tied to grape supply which is of course based on a perennial cycle. Therefore there are typically big peaks in usage especially at vintage time due to the large scale equipment used for processing and refrigeration. This adds another challenge to obtaining a pay back on an investment, especially when there is no grid to feed back into if supply outweighs demand.
To better understand energy efficiency, Cape Jaffa went through the process of a detailed energy audit. Although the audit was supported by a government grant, there was no funding available to invest in the improvements recommended. Reducing usage, and in particular peak loads, became the focus and substantial savings were achieved through a number of changes to our process. ‘We began co-inoculating for secondary fermentation to reduce our requirements to warm wines and we moved away from traditional cold stabilisation’. ‘Over time we have waited patiently for pricing on solar panels and battery based storage come down to the point that its now economical for us in its own right, even without the assistance of grants.’
The pay back in investment may not be the shortest one but this decision was made by a family with a long term view in mind. ‘We expect that the system will mean we can run a carbon neutral operation for nine months of the year and will occasionally run a diesel back-up generator to top up our power supply when required during vintage’.
Cape Jaffa has been recognised over and over for their sustainability efforts, winning three consecutive Advantage SA awards for sustainability, and subsequently being admitted to the Sustainability Hall of Fame in 2011. They were awarded an Australia Day Award back in 2012 by Robe Mayor Peter Risely for Corporate Contribution to the Environment. This award to recognised their conservation projects outside the business including weed removal on both McIntyre Reserve and the islands of Baudin Rocks. Cape Jaffa Wines also received a certificate of Merit in the South Australian Wine Industry Environmental Excellence Awards and Anna Hooper was runner up in an international event run by the Drinks Business UK for ‘Green personality of the Year’.
Cape Jaffa would like to acknowledge the tremendous support of Zen Energy, who supplied the lithium battery system. The installation itself was completed by local electrician Anthony Moore and his team at Robe Electrical. Derek Hooper has been involved in off-grid systems since he built an off grid, wind powered house on the Cape Jaffa property back in the late 90’s. The family home, out on a windswept hill near Cape Jaffa, was designed for a family of six plus the odd guest has been off-grid and solar and wind powered since it was built in 2005. Derek’s first-hand experience includes importing battery systems into Australia and his wealth of knowledge on this subject has been integral to the implementation of this project.
The 2014 vintage will be remembered for its volatile weather early in the season. Persistent ocean ‘breezes’ coupled with above-average rain in Spring, wreaked havoc with flowering leaving some blocks in the region severely under-cropped. The dismal quantities we received on the coast stood as testament to the cruel nature of agriculture. Being dependant on the timing of flowering certain sites and varieties seemed to cop a worse deal than others. As a result of the light crops (or perhaps the burgeoning reputation of the region), fruit was in very high demand.
Summer temperatures were very slightly average with a hot spell mid-January and, throughout the season, nine days above 35°C. Despite the low crops and warm conditions, veraison was very late pushing ripening back into the cooler Autumn months and this seemed to have a positive impact on flavour profiles. Clean, healthy fruit, extensive and manageable picking windows and cold nights made for an easy harvest. Growers welcomed a delayed break in the season with the heavy rain in April holding off until post-harvest.
Despite its ups and downs, 2014 seems to have created some excellent quality wines. Looking at the resulting styles, one might expect it had been a cooler than average vintage. Whites are looking very strong with good natural acidity and lovely texture. Black pepper seems to have found its way back into a few of our Shiraz parcels and the Cabernet achieved ripe flavours before baumes became excessive or berry shrivel occurred. Not such a good year for making reds without acid additions but all in all winemakers should be pleased.