Yealands Wine Group puts in NZ’s largest solar panel array

A Marlborough winery has so many solar panels it could power 86 houses.

The Seaview Vineyard winery, owned by the Yealands Wine Group, has a total of 1314 photovoltaic panels across its roof.

The company first had solar panels fitted at its Seddon winery over the course of 2012 and 2013, which at the time was the largest installation in the country before it was surpassed.

But the Marlborough wine company, which aims to produce the most sustainable wine in the world, is back in pole position after ​solar power company PowerSmart installed another 918 panels.

Yealands Wine Group founder Peter Yealands said the solar panel project was "his baby", and he was delighted to once again have the largest installation.

"We already had a pretty substantial solar array in place, but it takes a lot to power any kind of building and a winery is no different," he said.

"By increasing the size of our solar array we will decrease our reliance on the national grid and generate 30 per cent of the power we require to power our tank coolers, computers, you name it."

The installation of the panels, which covered around 2000 square metres of the northern part of the winery roof, was done through the PowerSmart GOLD programme.

This meant Yealands Wine Group, which was majority owned by Marlborough Lines, only had to pay a premium for the power produced by the panels and not the system itself.

Group chief operating officer Michael Wentworth said the company had the option to buy the system, which was complemented by wind turbines and burning vine prunings for energy.

Winemaking was an energy intensive activity and he did not know why more companies were not investing in solar power, Wentworth said.

To complement the panels, the company had also installed a charging station for electric cars at the winery, which would help power the fleet of hybrid cars used by its sales representatives.

Wentworth said the presence of the panels and the charging station would help make an impression on the 20,000 people that visited the winery each year, highlighting the sustainable ethos of the company.

The solar panels were estimated to produce around 505,000 kilowatts of electricity in their first year, as well as offsetting 82 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

"We have been carbon neutral since inception but that doesn't mean we can just sit back," Yealands said.

"Our new solar panels will further help reduce our carbon emissions and keep us true to our claims of being the most sustainable winery in the world."

- The Marlborough Express