Pernod Ricard Winemaker's Robert Taddeo and chief operations officer Brett McKinnon alongside the solar panels at Rowland Flat in the Barossa.

Pernod Ricard Winemaker's Robert Taddeo and chief operations officer Brett McKinnon alongside the solar panels at Rowland Flat in the Barossa.

Sunshine in a glass: Aussie winemakers embrace sustainable future with solar

Sunshine in a glass: Aussie winemakers embrace sustainable future with solar

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The power of sunshine is an essential ingredient in growing the perfect grapes to make Australia's outstanding wine.

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It's also proving pretty handy in generating the energy needed to power the wine production process as well.

Some of Australia's biggest names in wine are embracing solar energy as part of their strategies to deliver on both business efficiencies as well as commitments to operating as sustainably and environmentally responsibly as possible.

It's one of the industry sectors leading the way in installing solar energy systems, as well as investigating smarter ways of operating to optimise the use of solar across their businesses.

And our winemakers are not just leading locally.

In January, the operations of Jacob's Creek in South Australia's Barossa Valley flicked the switch on the last phase of its program to turn its roof tops into power generators. Combined with wind power, the Australian business of the winemaker is now entirely powered by renewable energy.

Solar installations at Yalumba's Oxford Landing winery in the Barossa.

Solar installations at Yalumba's Oxford Landing winery in the Barossa.

The achievement saw the business become the first in the global operations of its parent company Pernod Ricard to meet a goal of ensuring every brand in the group sourced electricity from renewables by 2025.

"We're leading the pack," said Robert Taddeo, Pernod Ricard Operations Director in Australia, who is based at the Jacob's Creek Winery in Rowland Flat.

"It's one of the pillars of our global sustainability and responsibility strategy Pernod Ricard launched recently, but it was already an integral part of what we were doing here.

"We're proud to have taken the initiative, both from an industry perspective and an environmental perspective, to go 100 per cent renewable.

"We have a lot of roof space so it made sense for us to be harnessing the power of the sun, and we are achieving the environmental benefits and what that means for our brand."

After embarking on its solar program three years ago in partnership with AGL, Pernod Ricard Australia now has around three megawatts worth of solar panels across its sites in the Barossa and the installations account for more than 20 per cent of the operation's peak demand.

The installations are equivalent in size to 13 Olympic pools and are expected to generate around 4000 megawatt hours of energy every year, equivalent to the energy consumed annually by around 800 South Australian homes.

The remaining 80 per cent of the businesses' energy demand is a combination of wind and solar through power retailer Flow Power.

As well, the winemaker has constructed a "solar carpark" for employees featuring solar-powered charging stations for electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, one of the wine industry's most enthusiastic adopters of solar energy, the family-owned winemaker Yalumba, is preparing to roll out its latest solar installations at two of its Tasmanian wineries, Dalrymple and Jansz Tasmania, in the latest in a series across multiple sites around Australia over the past five years.

In partnership with AGL, Yalumba powered up its first solar installation in 2016, a 1.4 megawatt system at its Barossa operations that was the largest of its kind for an Australian winery.

Since then it's continued to work with AGL on the delivery of solar projects across the winemaker's three Barossa locations, as well as its warehouses in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

Jesse Auricht, Yalumba's Angaston-based engineering manager, said the process of going solar had been an 'exciting and rewarding' one for the Australian wine industry pioneer, both financially and as part of its long-time commitment to sustainability.

"We went from no solar to being the largest winery installment in the country at the time," he said.

"For us it was a no-brainer. Environmentally it ticked the boxes and financially it allowed us to take control of our electricity costs. Around 25 to 30 per cent of our total energy consumption is now from solar."

Yalumba's move to solar was through a ten-year AGL solar business plan under which AGL designed and installed, and then owns and maintains the system. Yalumba purchases the energy generated and after ten years takes ownership of the system.

"It meant we were $150,000 cash flow positive in the first year without capital investment," said Mr Auricht.

"It's part of our business ethos to grow wine sustainably and energy is an important part of that. This meant we could install solar without wrestling capital away from other parts of the business."

Looking to the future, both Yalumba and Pernod Ricard are investigating innovative strategies to harness solar energy even more.

While currently, large-scale batteries to store solar energy are still seen as unfeasible, other options are being developed to extend solar energy use outside of daylight hours including giant ice blocks as well as smart technology to precisely manage temperature settings to create "virtual batteries".

Pernod Ricard Australia has begun a pilot program with Glacium Cooling Technologies using technology that uses excess solar energy generated to chill a volume of a saltwater solution and then use the "ice battery" to power cooling systems.

"We can use that big ice block to chill facilities like our bottling and barrel halls," Mr Taddeo said. "We're 100 per cent renewable but now we're saying, 'Let's not stop there. What other opportunities are around to minimise the amount of electricity we use, and make the best use of the solar we generate?'."

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