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Backing for solar ripens in Napa Valley

Photonics Spectra
May 2009
Anne L. Fischer, Senior Editor,

One way developers are getting around the credit crunch is by financing their own projects. The practice makes sense, thanks in part to the federal government’s recent eight-year extension on solar energy tax credits and to state governments’ continuing incentives for investing in solar projects. Now companies like Perpetual Energy Systems, a Chicago-based comprehensive developer of solar-powered renewable energy systems, is financing solar projects. In California, the company recently partnered with Napa’s own Bright Group, the city of Healdsburg, Stellar Energy Solutions and Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group, based in Huntington Beach, to power four Napa wineries with solar.

A solar array powers Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif., one of the four Foster’s Wine Estates installations. The system is owned by Perpetual Energy Systems, the financier of all four. Photo courtesy of DC Power.

A 25-year financial partnership between Perpetual Energy Systems and Foster’s Wine Estates established the wineries as host sites for the solar installations, which were fully funded by Perpetual. Perpetual maintains ownership of the solar system and the energy it produces and earns carbon credits and renewable energy certificates as determined from the system’s output. As part of the agreement between Perpetual and Foster’s, green energy will be sold to Foster’s at a predetermined fixed discount off the current rate for “grid” energy.

Fruitful harvest

Laurance Friedman, co-chairman of Perpetual Energy Systems, sees this financial agreement as a win for both parties. It’s a success for the project developers because “we are convinced solar technology will be financially beneficial in the long term,” Friedman said. “As the owner of the system and its energy, we believe it is a sound investment.”

On the other hand, the vintners can focus on their grapes while knowing that they’re being good stewards of the land by harvesting the sun to power the wineries. They can let the solar project leaders coordinate all the technology, financing and paperwork involved in generating the power while taking advantage of the government tax credits.

It’s not surprising that wineries are going solar. Grapes require a good deal of sunlight to grow, so they are well-situated for solar. And farmers want to do what is best for the environment and therefore don’t have to be sold on the merits of solar power.

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