Pernod Ricard is trialling a storage battery for its solar power.
Clive Dougall shares a love of lo-fi wine.

Recent years have seen changes around the world in sustainable vineyard management. ‘Sustainability’ has become a buzzword for the wine industry and huge leaps forward have been made towards more environmentally friendly land care. The movement toward healthier practices in vineyards through a reduction in the use of synthesised herbicides and pesticides in particular has been one important way that winemakers have been working on reducing their long-term impact on the environment. It also makes sound business sense to ensure these precious resources will be fertile for the production of quality wines for the long term.

A lower carbon footprint is another Holy Grail for wineries. Château Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux has been trying a couple of ideas to reduce its footprint: it has constructed a gravity-fed winery to avoid the need for pumps; clever design has reduced the need for heating and cooling; and an array of solar panels now provide 100% of its energy needs. Australian wineries are following suit, including Tyrrell’s, De Bortoli and Yalumba which all use solar panels to partially offset energy use in their wineries.

The big challenge for the industry as a whole has been to make changes at a scale that brings electricity-saving technology and significant savings into some of the largest wineries in Australia. Easier said than done. These larger concerns are high users of energy with large carbon footprints both in and out of vintage, particularly for refrigeration. Fruit and must are chilled as are ferments and there’s warehousing, all of which require large amounts of energy.

Robert Taddeo & Brett McKinnon of Pernod Ricard.
Robert Taddeo & Brett McKinnon of Pernod Ricard.

Like many large wine companies, Pernod Ricard has set a goal to increase its environmental sustainability, as outlined by sustainability and responsibility director Christian Campanella, with a long-term aim of sourcing 100% of electricity from renewable resources. “Sustainability is a central plank of our business strategy, particularly as producers of wine, which is grown from the land and intrinsically linked to the local environment. This is why we’ve set clear objectives across four key areas that we are committed to achieving by 2030.”

Renewable energy plus reliable storage are crucial for success, and recent advancements now allow Jacob’s Creek to run its large Barossa Valley winery at Rowland Flat on nothing but renewable energy. The project began with the installation of 10,000 solar panels last year, the largest of any winery in Australia. However it is the trial addition of a storage battery and associated technology that have essentially allowed the winery to switch 100% to renewable energy. It’s not just a simple solar battery solution but also uses sophisticated technology and software to forecast, optimise and control overall energy usage. It has been developed by Glaciem Cooling in partnership with the University of South Australia, making this a truly home-grown product.

The battery is unique in that it stores thermal rather than electrical energy, which brings with it numerous advantages. It is highly efficient, with more than 95% of the energy from solar panels converted into thermal energy which it can charge and discharge with ease. Electrical batteries also degrade and have a much more limited life span than a thermal battery.

In addition, the 2.6MW/h battery can be fully charged in less than five hours with flexibility depending on upcoming energy requirements.

Another innovative element of this project is the software and algorithms, which were developed in South Australia, that are used to control the charging of the batteries and energy use. The algorithm uses weather data, wholesale energy prices and upcoming winery energy requirements to forecast and control battery charging and discharging while minimising energy costs.

While only a trial, Pernod Ricard’s attempts to go 100% renewable could potentially be an industry game-changer that reduces the wine industry carbon footprint across the country for both big and small wineries alike.