Vineyard on solar inventory

Renewable energy a priority for Hunter valley Winery

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Alisdair Tulloch, Keith Tulloch Winery, Pokolbin is focused on the benefits of an energy efficient and carbon neutral winery. Photo: Louise Nichols, The Singleton Argus

Alisdair Tulloch, Keith Tulloch Winery, Pokolbin is focused on the benefits of an energy efficient and carbon neutral winery. Photo: Louise Nichols, The Singleton Argus

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The benefits of an energy efficient and carbon neutral winery.

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Alisdair Tulloch is proud that his family's Pokolbin winery is the first to be accredited carbon neutral in the Hunter Valley.

Mr Tulloch is a winemaker with the Keith Tulloch Winery, founded by his parents Keith and Amanda in 1997, and he is the fifth generation of his family to make wine in the Hunter Valley.

The winery is also certified by the Australian government under the 'Climate Active' program.

A member of Farmers for Climate Action, Mr Tulloch is concerned by the accelerating effects of climate change on agriculture and he addressed the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference held in Wagga Wagga highlighting the opportunities to reduce emissions in such a way the bottom line of his business is improved.

"One of the biggest annual expenses in our business is the electricity bill," he said.

"Having looked at our on-farm emissions, I did an analysis of our 2017-18 financial year and saw our business created 660 tonnes of CO2 emissions."

Mr Tulloch then looked at the emissions generated through the integrated business and found 20 per cent of their total emissions came from electricity use.

A lot of electricity is used in processing the wine from when the fruit is picked, including machinery and refrigeration, so he sought to reduce the expense.

"Other major contributors included the glassware, and getting our product to our customers so we developed a comprehensive plan for the next 10 years to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible," he said.

"When they can't be reduced with current technology, we still need to run our tractors, we still need to ship our wine to the other side of the world, we offset those emissions by sequestration on-farm or off-farm through planting trees when necessary."

The decision to become carbon neutral is based on Mr Tulloch's commitment to take action on climate change, and he hopes others will see the benefits of operating their winery's in a carbon neutral world.

"In 2018 we commissioned a 65kw solar power plant next to a section of our vineyard," he said.

"Currently it is providing 72 per cent of our power, and we are hoping that will contribute to a saving of about $20 to 25,000 a year as well as reducing our carbon footprint by about 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions."

Mr Tulloch said 33 per cent of the electricity generated, that is excess to their winery usage, is sold to the grid.

"So there is an amount of electricity that we getting through the feed in tariff and that is contributing to paying off the system," he said.

"With our solar system installed, the major part of our electricity generation obviously happens during daylight hours when we have plenty of sunlight.

"So we make sure we are electrifying as many of our processes as possible to use that electricity because realistically the feed in tariff is small compared to savings in electricity."

Mr Tulloch has purchased electric forklifts powered by his on-farm generated peak electricity rather than LPG-powered forklifts, and has recently installed a new refrigeration system which has a more efficient electricity use and it can be programmed to use most of its electricity requirements during daylight hours.

"It is not just about purchasing the equipment, it is also about getting the best possible utility out of it because it is a big investment for a small family business," Mr Tulloch said.

In installing new equipment, Keith Tulloch Winery has optimised the use of electricity generated by their solar system and not only through daylight hours.

"It is not just when the sun is shining you are saving on electricity, if you have optimised the system probably, then you are saving electricity during the hours when the sun is not shining," he said.

It wasn't only the immediate savings which caused Mr Tulloch to consider solar panels as an option, but the uncertain future of electricity pricing and availability.

"If we lose electricity we could potentially lose our products in a very short time," he said. "And looking to where electricity prices could be in five years, this was our way of hedging our bets."

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