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Energy from the vine

Energy from the vine
You wouldn't waste wine, so why waste the prunings? Marlborough wine producer Yealands Estate has managed to slash its annual heating bill by choosing to burn its own vine prunings to produce heat.

A Malborough wine producer has slashed its annual heating bill by choosing to burn its own vine prunings to produce heat. 

Yealands Estate has replaced its LPG-fired boiler with two wood-burning boilers to produce the heat it needs for winemaking, with the financial support of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.  The first project of its type in New Zealand, the vineyard is burning off-cuts from its own grapevines as opposed to using regular wood .

Based on the 2011 harvest, Yealands Estate says LPG consumption  has dropped by more than 466,000kWh, resulting in a  saving of $168,000 in just one year.

Because burning 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. Burning biomass for energy is considered carbon neutral because the amount of carbon released when it is burnt is equivalent to the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere as it grew. 

Winery owner Peter Yealands says the technology isn’t actually new. 

“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.” 

EECA chief executive Mike Underhill 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% percent of its vine prunings to fire the boilers, with the rest mulched into the ground as per usual.  With more than 18,000 ha in Marlborough planted in vines, the region’s vineyards could potentially provide the heat energy equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 14,000 homes each year. 

The project was managed by Marlborough-based energy consultancy Vine Gas Ltd. 

Costs

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

- Purchasing a baler for the back of the tractor 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

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