Drink Wine, Save Planet


Want to cut your carbon footprint and get a buzz at the same time? Grab a bottle of wine from the Sonoma Wine Company in Graton, California. The winery is the pilot project for Cogenra Solar, a startup backed by top VC Vinod Khosla. It brings together photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies to produce hot water and electricity from a single unit.

Cogenra's technology reflects sunlight into a solar array that in turn faces down into a mirror. A tube located above the array carries liquid that has been heated by sunlight reflected off the mirror. That heat is then used to produce hot water.

The company explains:

Traditional photovoltaic (PV) systems convert approximately 16% of the sun’s energy into usable electricity, discarding the remaining energy as waste, mostly in the form of heat. Solar cogeneration captures this waste heat and transforms it into real value—hot water. This cogenerative solution has the added benefit of cooling the PV components, which boosts the system’s electric generation.

Cogenra is taking aim at the commercial market. "If you look at heat consumption, a substantial part is on the industrial level and the institutional level—jail, retirement communities, hospitals. Everywhere where there is industry, industry uses heat," says Dr. Gilad Almogy, Cogenra's CEO.

That includes wineries. As part of the pilot project with Sonoma Wine, Cogenra has set up a 272 kW electric and thermal installation to support the facility’s operations. "We give them electricity to run the plant, and heat to run the winery," Almogy says. The installation, which is partially funded by a $1.5 million research grant from the California Solar Initiative Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration program, will be completed by the end of the year.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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    Drink Wine, Save Planet
    Ughhh, i always drink wine so i love so much this Planet :)

  • GlennFriesen

    Seriously, buying any small-medium size wine producer's craft is good for the environment, and the economy.

    Grapes for these smaller productions are most often biodynamically / organically raised and tended, and most often have a carbon-negative output. That means, chemicals/processes used in the production of the wine don't hurt the environment. And, the vines themselves actually help reduce greenhouse gasses to begin with. The more vines, the better for the environment. The more demand for the wine, the more vines. Not to mention that cork trees, and forests of oak grown for barrel production are also extremely beneficial for the atmosphere and preventing erosion.

    Big producers don't work the same way, so I'd avoid them. They often employ practices designed to reduce cost, excepting environmental waste and cultural waste from their accounting (like most capitalists). Smaller/medium-sized producers often are more dependent on their land and are, by will or necessity, more involved in their local community (protecting their workers and the environment insodoing).

    And finally, tasting in the actual tasting rooms of producers is extremely good for the environment, if you take a minute while there to absorb the beauty of nature (when nurtured by man). The vines... the wine.... it's a beautiful thing.