Solar energy for wineries

Two workers wearing safty helmets cleaning solar panels on a rooftop

Photovoltaic array; Photo: SOVENTIX

Construction of a photovoltaic installation in Peralillo, some 200 km south of the Chilean capital, Santiago, is due to start in June 2017. The system, which will have an array surface of approximately 1800 m2 and a rated capacity of 98.58 kWp, is designed to power the irrigation pumps at a 200-hectare winery owned by the Chilean wine producer Viña Cono Sur. The project is the outcome of cooperation between Viña Cono Sur and the solar energy company SOVENTIX in a partnership initiated through the IKI project Smart Energy Concepts.

Once installed, the 372 solar panels are expected to generate 174,200 kWh per year and supply a good part of the electricity needed for the irrigation pumps, whose annual electricity consumption totals around 480,760 KWh. The German-Chilean company SOVENTIX is responsible for all aspects of project management, including development, construction, financing and maintenance. Thomas Stetter, CEO of SOVENTIX Chile, explains: ‘This means that the customer doesn’t need to worry about anything.’ Furthermore, he points out that the winemaker is guaranteed a supply price ‘below the grid electricity price’.

The irrigation pumps for these vines will soon be powered with solar energy. Photo: Iris Wunderlich

For Viña Cono Sur the saving in energy costs makes economic sense. But just as important for the wine producer is the enhanced sustainability of the production processes made possible by the photovoltaic system. Christian Maire, the winery’s Sustainability Manager, reports: ‘We are committed to making production more sustainable and environmentally sound, and are utilising the vast solar energy potential that we have here in Chile.’

A key role in getting the project off the ground has been played by the Smart Energy Concepts initiative. This is operated by the German-Chilean Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chilean energy efficiency agency Agencia de Eficiencia Energética (AchEE), and financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Environment Ministry (BMUB). Among the projects that the initiative seeks to support are schemes that help to reduce CO2 emissions in Chile's agriculture and food sector, for example through targeted activities such as training, networking and technology transfer.

Annika Schüttler, project manager at Smart Energy Concepts, describes the savings potential that exists in the agriculture sector: ‘In agriculture, irrigation is the most energy-intensive process and also the process with the greatest scope for energy efficiency measures that cut both emissions and operating costs.’

The cooperation between SOVENTIX and Viña Cono Sur will now enable the winery to tap these emission and cost reduction potentials. And it means that the Smart Energy Concepts initiative is starting to reap the benefits of its activities in Chile. Annika Schüttler regards the partnership between the two companies as a model for the way in which Smart Energy Concepts operates: ‘We are matchmakers bringing together producers in the agriculture and food sector and companies that offer energy-related services and technology, so that production in the sector can become more (energy )efficient and sustainable.’