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Vineyard grows its own bioenergy

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Vineyard grows its own bioenergy

A Marlborough wine producer has slashed nearly $170,000 off its annual heating bill by swapping LPG for one of its own waste products: vine prunings.

Yealands Estate, which runs vineyards in the Awatere Valley, has replaced its LPG-fired boiler with two wood-burning boilers to produce the heat it needs for winemaking.

But instead of wood, the vineyard is burning off-cuts from its own grapevines - the first project of its type in New Zealand.

The result, based on its 2011 harvest, is a drop in LPG consumption of more than 466,000kWh and a saving of $168,000 - in just one year.

Because burning the vine prunings is carbon neutral, the company also looks set to cut CO2 emissions by 161 tonnes a year, further enhancing its green credentials in export markets. The project was supported with funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). "It's not brand new technology," says winery owner Peter Yealands.

"Humans have been heating water by burning things since the dawn of history - this was just a new application for old knowledge.

"The deal maker was, when we did our sums, the payback was extremely good. So we're happy from an environmental view, and our accountants are happy too!" Mike Underhill, EECA Chief Executive, says Yealands' project shows there are potentially huge dividends for businesses switching to renewable energy.

"Many companies produce waste that could be put to better use. Yealands shows the way by making intelligent use of its waste to replace a costly fossil fuel. Not only is there competitive advantage to having good environmental credentials - particularly in overseas markets - but there's a direct cost saving too. This type of project could help boost returns for other winemakers, around the country."

Yealands uses less than 10% of its vine prunings to fire the boilers, with the rest mulched into the ground as before. With more than 18,000 ha in Marlborough planted in vines, the region's vineyards could potentially provide as much as 0.5 PJ in heat energy - equivalent to the amount of electricity used every year by 14,000 homes. The project was managed by Marlborough-based energy consultancy Vine Gas Ltd.

Finding suitable burners was relatively easy, as in Europe it is common to burn straw bales for precisely the same purpose.

The two 250kW Central BoilerTM Pallet Burners cost $187,600 to install. At current production levels, they will pay for themselves in less than 18 months.

The winery also had to buy a baler to take the place of the mulcher on the back of the tractor, but that was the extent of the capital outlay. The estimated cost of gathering and baling the prunings is just $2,200 a year, as most of the equipment would have been used anyway. EECA promotes innovative energy-saving and renewable energy projects with funding, advice and support.

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