Sebastopol, our agri-artsy Sonoma County outpost, (Jerry Garcia went to High School at Analy 1/2 mile from our house) was the first city in the US in 2013 to implement a building ordinance that required all new homes/buildings to include solar systems that provide 2 watts of photovoltaic-derived power per square foot of insulated building area. The system must offset at least 75 percent of the home/building’s total annual electric load.
We are in the county but on the Sebastopol border, so it is not applicable to us…but being good neighbors, stewards of the environment and cost efficient people…and we were about to rent on VRBO, we decided to add to our solar in 2012.
When we purchased our home there was already 7 kW of solar. We added 2 kW February 2012 that would take advantage of the morning/mid-afternoon sun. In addition we have converted most of our lights from incandescent/CFL to LED and upgraded our pool pump to variable speed…but I had to add a wine room for the Turtle Vines Inventory!
How are we doing?
– Our average electric bill 2009-2011 was $1,085
– Our average electric bill 2012-2015 was $ 638
– The last 4 years have also included 125 couple who stayed at our Vacation Rental, which is all electric.
– Our solar generation accounted for 70% of our energy usage! In addition, we purchase the remainder of our electricity from Sonoma Clean Power that is 100% renewable.
– We use half of the electricity of the average American family.
– Our goal is to be near $0 for 2016.
So…why the picture above? Installing solar panels after the roof is installed has risks…namely leaks. We are now figuring out the best way to fix the roof, but we are committed to solar!
As farmers we live and die by the weather, in fact I get a wine industry weather report sent to me every day via email so I can plan my week. Grapevines need moisture in the winter and fall to replenish the soil. They need to be warm in the spring and hot, but not to hot, in the summer and fall. Pinot Noir likes the range of temperatures in the days and nights to be large to develop wonderful flavors.
This brings me to this post on rainfall. Sebastopol (in Sonoma County) for 2013 has had only 8.1 inches of rain as of mid-December (I hope it rains during the holidays). Normally we get 36.3 inches of rain, with most of it coming in the winter and spring to recharge the soil and fill the aquifers. . If we don’t get much rain this winter I think the vines will suffer and we will get a smaller crop for 2014. Global climate change, El Nino, who knows…I know I may regret saying this as I need time to get ready for the growing season and prune in the spring…but I sure wish it would rain a lot this winter. Sure we can irrigate, but it is not the same.
Yesterday I was out in the vineyard sowing insectary flowers every 10th row. I’m hoping this will help our organic vineyard attract beneficial insects in future years. As I started my day I heard running water near the back of the barn and you can see in the picture above what I found…our 1.5″ vineyard irrigation pipe had broken due to the cold weather and was gushing water!!! This could have been a disaster had I not been home when this happened as we are connected to a well.
I know it was only 27F, nothing compare to most parts of the country, but I’m guessing the PVC setup was causing stress on the system and the cold exacerbated the piping and it broke! Looks like another winter project around the vineyard to keep me busy.
FYI…normally in the winter the low temperature is around 35F, since we are only 20 minutes from the ocean. Record lows for most months are 22F, so this was pretty cold for us.