Pictured left to right: Bill Redelmeier, co-owner, Southbrook Vineyards; Bruce Taylor, president, Enviro-Stewards; Kevin Hooiveld, operations manager, The Violin Group; Mike Schriener, leader, Green Party of Ontario; Brodie Mosher, manager, conservation & administration, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro unveil the new 136 KW photovoltaic field as Southbrook Vineyards unveils the next step in its energy conservation program with its net metering project.
Niagara-on- the-Lake, ON. Southbrook Vineyards (www.southbrook.com) -- the first Canadian certified organic and biodynamic winery -- is pioneering new territory in energy conservation, in line with its core mission of working with nature to make great wine. A new 136 KW photovoltaic field or solar system installed by St. Catharines-based, The Violin Group (www.theviolingroup.com) was officially unveiled today. As part of a net metering project, the largest in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, the system consists of 8 rows, 432 panels and a 136 KW net meter, generating renewably sourced electricity. The solar project will supply 170 Mwh, and is part of the long term vision for a deeply sustainable farm operation. The infrastructure to link the new solar field to the electrical system was initially installed in 2007 during construction, in preparation for the development of the appropriate technology.
The first step in Southbrook’s sustainability project was an aggressive audit of overall energy consumption and identification of opportunities for substantial improvement. Undertaken by Ontario-based engineering firm, Enviro-Stewards (www.enviro-stewards.com) with the assistance of Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro, this initial investment identified opportunities for reductions of 41 per cent in natural gas usage and 38 per cent in electricity requirements. Subsequently, the net reduction in electricity use is 80 per cent; the new photovoltaic field was installed with no government subsidies involved, and will ultimately pay for itself within seven to eight years.
“As practical farmers, Southbrook has always been conscious of energy conservation and committed to sustainability,” explained Bill Redelmeier, founder and co-owner, Southbrook Vineyards. “This has been reflected in 2005 by our choice to create a LEED® Gold certified winery and hospitality building in collaboration with Jack Diamond, principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects (www.dsai.ca). Previously, our entire operation was audited for and met Sustainable Winemaking Ontario standards, which included energy efficiency. We’re proud to have taken these next steps, which together reduce net electrical inputs by 80 per cent.”
“If anyone could have a case for proceeding directly to renewables, it would be Southbrook,” commented Bruce Taylor, president, Enviro-Stewards. “Furthermore, Niagara-on-the- Lake Hydro had just retained a consultant to complete an energy conservation study there which found that to further reduce electricity consumption, Southbrook would need to proceed to harder to reach fruit such as lighting and refrigeration upgrades that would save up to 5 percent with an average payback of 20 years.” Mr. Taylor continued, “Even so, Southbrook decided to retain Enviro-Stewards to complete a shared savings based utility conservation assessment prior to completion of the design of Southbrook’s net metering solar project. Our assessment found that with a 4 month payback period, the facility could further reduce electricity consumption by at least one third, and hence reduce the number of solar panels needed to produce their electricity needs by one third.”
“With our client having a LEED® Gold building and a biodynamic and organic vineyard, it was important to us to have as sustainable an approach as possible while building this project,” added Mike Violin, founder, The Violin Group. “In order to allow the septic bed, soil and soil chemistry to remain undisturbed, the system was ground mounted; all concrete ballast foundations were locally sourced and utilized recycled materials in place of some aggregate. With the net meter complete, Southbrook is quite simply, a green masterpiece.”
There are three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social components in reaching a sustainable goal. In order to underscore their commitment to social responsibility, The Violin Group and Southbrook partnered to host a “Community Build Day” in April. The event created a dynamic learning opportunity to benefit students within the Niagara Region, including the Niagara Catholic School Board and Brock University, and the Niagara Sustainability Initiative. The Build Day initiative allowed the participants a hands-on, networking opportunity to foster a collaborative, inclusive environment necessary to generate real intrinsic change in their community.
Better grapes, better wine, better world
Southbrook Vineyards grows 60 acres of wine grapes on a 150-acre diversified farm in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula wine region, producing wines that express the taste of their place. It has built a solid reputation for its strict adherence to biodynamic and organic winemaking, with certifications including those by Demeter, Pro-Cert Organic Food Systems Inc., LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Sustainable Winemaking Ontario, VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) for grape wines, and QC (Quality Certified) for fruit wines, among others.
“We like to think that this is another example of Southbrook proving what is possible and inspiring others,” added Mr. Redelmeier. “Ultimately, we’d like to thank our project partners, our neighbours, businesses and the community at large in the Region for their support for this exciting initiative, the next significant step in our evolution and commitment to sustainability.”
Enviro-Stewards Inc. is a "Best for the World" designated engineering corporation that cultivates resilient businesses and improve lives in extraordinary ways. Their assessments have identified practical opportunities for industries to save $17 million per year with a payback of under one year and save 15 million m3 of gas, 23 million kwh of electricity, 3 million m3 of water and avoid 38,000 tonnes/yr of GHG emissions. Enviro-Stewards also founded the safe water project that empowers communities in East Africa to sustainably provide safe water. To date, the safe water project has provided 5,700 people with a sustainable supply of safe water, purified 48 million litres of water, avoided 7,200 tonnes of GHG emissions (to boil water), preserved 40 hectares of trees and avoided 1,800 cases of typhoid. More information is available at www.enviro-stewards.com.
About The Violin Group
The Violin Group prides itself on a tireless passion for its trade and an uncompromising pursuit of perfection - all while balancing classic principles of design with leading edge technology. In a world where "close-enough" is often the standard, The Violin Group completes projects that break barriers, defy expectations and demonstrate a quality of work that is painstakingly precise. More information is available at www.theviolingroup.com, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook @theviolingrp.
About Southbrook Vineyards
Founded in 1991, Southbrook Vineyards is the epitome and evolution of co-owners Marilyn and Bill Redelmeier's love story with wine, the land, and all things local. The winery produces a range of red and white organic and biodynamic wines that continues to earn recognition from
critics and consumers alike, including awards such as the Lieutenant Governor's Award for
Excellence in Ontario Wine 2016. They produce a wide range of wines – Poetica, Estate, Triomphe, Connect Organic, dessert wines and Seriously Cool -- all possessing their own unique character, offered in a range of prices to suit any situation. Southbrook has taken the responsibility to engage fully in a sustainability program. Third-party endorsements such as LEED® Gold for architecture and Intervin Winery of the Year for wine quality, along with those certifying biodynamic and organic practices, affirm the Redelmeiers’ goal to lead by example and serve to inspire others to make a commitment to sustainability, pursuing their passions and creating fine wines. For more information visit www.southbrook.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @southbrookwine.