By GREGORY ZELLER //
The sun is doing more than nourish grapes at Paumanok Vineyards.
The award-winning Aquebogue vineyard is now partially powered by a 51-kilowatt solar-energy system installed by Island Park-based EmPower Solar, Long Island “master dealer” for California-based solar-energy company SunPower Corp.
The system, which complies with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Remote Net Metering program, is predicted to save the vineyard more than $8,000 in its first year of operation and better than $366,000 over the next three decades. That includes savings realized through the Remote Net Metering program, which allows farm and other nonresidential customers incorporating solar- or wind-generated power to apply excess generation to electric bills at remote locations.
The 51-kW system, which is projected to generate 80 percent of the Paumanok Vineyard’s power, will also reduce the agricultural operation’s annual carbon-dioxide emissions by more than 2 million pounds, according to EmPower Solar.
And it will decrease the vineyard’s annual oil consumption by more than 94,000 gallons, the Island Park solar firm added – the equivalent environmental effect of taking 201 automobiles off local roads for a full year, or planting 24,751 trees.
By going solar, Paumanok Vineyards is both helping the environment and “working to remain competitive by reducing energy costs,” noted EmPower CEO David Schieren.
“Long Island’s high energy costs make solar-energy systems attractive, affordable options for helping companies stay and grow their businesses here,” Schieren said.
This is not the first time Paumanok Vineyards has proved itself a solar pioneer among Long Island vineyards and wineries. In 2009, the circa-1983, 127-acre estate became the first Island vineyard to go solar with the installation of a 10-kW system, which at the time produced about 15 percent of its energy.
Stepping up was a natural, according to Paumanok Vineyards proprietor Charles Massoud, who agreed with Schieren’s assessment of competition and energy costs.
“By controlling our costs, we can remain competitive,” Massoud noted. “We significantly lower our energy bills.”
In fact, according to EmPower Solar, the vineyard’s return on investment “will be quick,” with the projected annual savings and a host of PSEG-LI rebates covering the costs of the solar installation “in just four years.”
For Massoud, however, just as satisfying as those bottom-line benefits are the environmental advantages. Paumanok Vineyards – which captured a Double Gold award for its 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, among other honors, at the prestigious 2017 New York Wine & Food Classic – already has an established reputation among oenophiles; doing its thing almost entirely on solar power is “truly a win-win,” according to the farmer.
“Even more important, we reduce our carbon footprint, lower the production of greenhouse gas and lessen our reliance on fossil fuels,” Massoud said. “[We can continue] to offer our customers world-class wines at fair prices, while doing our part for the environment.”