Meet the Napa Winery Using Solar Power to go “Off-Grid”

California’s wine industry is expected to face unprecedented climate related challenges in the coming years. Learn how one leading winery is taking action.

A Napa winery, Domaine Carneros, who installed the biggest solar power project of any winery in the world back in 2003, will now be the fourth winery in California to have a microgrid, allowing it to operate independently off-grid for up to a week in case of a power outage.

The winery, a producer of both sparkling wines and Pinot Noir on about 400 acres, is on track to complete its microgrid in November 2022.

The Domaine Carneros solar microgrid project

Winner of the 2020 Climate Champion award in the business category from Napa Climate NOW!, a local citizens’ group, and a 2019 California Green Medal Business Award, and a Certified California Sustainable Winery since 2015, it’s the US outpost of Taittinger, the famous Champagne producer in France founded in 1732.

See also: How climate change threatens the wine industry

Domaine Carneros has a chateau inspired by Taitittinger’s 18th-century Chateau de la Marquetterie, plus formal gardens and a majestic fountain, in the Carneros AVA, a wine region located in both southern Napa and Sonoma. Its original solar panels are on the chateau rooftop and on a back building known as the Carriage House.

The microgrid is being built atop the carport and as ground-mounted structures by EDF Renewables, which develops and operates clean energy plants in over 20 countries, especially in Europe and North America. 

Back in 2003, the winery’s solar project was regarded as a “hippie eccentricity,” noted the Napa Valley Register, and supplied about 35-40% of its electricity needs.

Its new upgraded 250-kilowatt solar project combines battery storage, allowing the winery to draw from stored energy during costly evening peak-demand times, with smart controls, enabling it to take the whole facility off the electrical grid in case of power outages and limit its use of diesel fuel for backup generators, is expected to supply 75-85% of its electricity needs, said Remi Cohen, CEO of Domaine Carneros, who took over in 2020, the year the project was announced.

It’s to help protect the environment in the face of climate change, and seemed like the next step.

Since major power outages and more wildfires followed the rash of wildfires that plagued Napa and Sonoma in 2019 about 10 months later, it seemed a wise move.

Other California wineries turn to microgrids as an option

California’s two dozen or so microgrids are mostly at hospitals or municipalities. The three California wineries that already have microgrids are Alpha Omega in Napa, Stone Edge Farms Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma, and Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine & Food Science winery at the University of California, Davis in Yolo County, notes Wine Business Monthly.

The microgrid installed at Alpha Omega in 2016 generates nearly 100% of its electricity, about one million kilowatt hours per year, and lowered its energy bill from $15,000 a month to $1,000 a month, according to a report by California Energy Commission.

Sustainability and female leadership at Domaine Carneros

At Domaine Carneros, Cohen continues a long tradition of sustainability under female leadership. She succeeded Eileen Crane, its founding winemaker and CEO for 33 years, and was called “America’s doyenne of sparkling wine.”

Claude Taittinger, the family-owned winery’s CEO in France, tapped Crane in 1987 to oversee the construction of its winery in northern California and lead it. At the time, Crane was vice president of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, a sparkling wine producer founded by Spain’s Ferrer family in the Carneros AVA in Sonoma. 

Solar-powered wineries: a growing trend?

But Domaine Carneros is one of 46 winery members with solar arrays, according to Anna Brittain, executive director of Napa Green, the leading certification program for both wineries and vineyards in the county. Among the oldest or biggest are Grgich Cellars, Spottswoode Estate Vineyards & Winery, ZD, Cuvaison, and Far Niente, all around 2007/08, Charles Krug in 2013, and Clos du Val in 2014 (with more panels added in 2018 at Hirondelle House.)

An unusual floating solar array, where almost 1,000 solar panels attached to pontoons float on an irrigation pond at Far Niente winery, is believed to be the world’s first Floatovoltaic solar installation.

Spottswoode is the first Napa winery to win B Corp certification for its environmental and social practices. Also, one of the first six wineries to join International Wineries for Climate Action, whose members, from Europe, North and South America, Australia to New Zealand, collaborate to lower carbon emissions industry-wide, Spottswoode is currently expanding its solar array.

When asked why to make the effort to be sustainable, Napa Green’s Brittain replies:

Every aspect of a business extends from and returns to nature. Businesses have an onus to place themselves in the context of the ecosystems and communities on which they depend. A top-down commitment to sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have; we’re facing a climate crisis.

About the Author: Sharon McDonnell is a travel writer who is passionate about sustainable living and ecotourism. She is a regular contributor at Fodor’s and is the author of The Everything Internet Book. Sharon lives in the Bay Area.

Making the commitment to third party certification takes time and effort, but it is worth it to demonstrate our commitment to the community and to protect our watershed, our land and the air we breathe.​

A live check in with @abrittain &!
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🌿 Did you know that less than 3% of philanthropic donations go to environmental work? 

Please consider donating to Napa Green this giving season with one of several ways at any level! 

Head to the link in our bio for details!
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With gratitude and joy, we wish you a beautiful day & start to the holiday season from all of us at Team Green! 

- Ben, Meghan, Anna, Marissa, Sierra & Megan
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‘If not here, where? If not now, when?’ 

“The onus is on us as a world class wine growing region to be leaders in sustainability & climate action.” 

- Executive Director of Napa Green, Anna Brittain
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It’s been a big week at Napa Green and we want to take a moment to raise a glass to salute you all. 

We are overjoyed to see so much support and invigorated interest in our mission towards sustainable practices and regenerative agriculture in the wine industry. 

We have many more details, paired with educational & financial resources that are already up and rolling on our website. We will continue to share them all, one by one and in great detail here on socials as well. 

For now please plan on joining us at our upcoming Town Hall meeting on Dec 7th at @stsupery. You can find more details at 

Cheers and Happy Friday Napa Valley. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing community!
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⚠️ Important Announcement 

Napa Green becomes the first sustainable wine growing certification to require the phaseout of Round Up. 

Please find the link in our bio for the full press release and full suite of info & grower resources. 

Join us on December 7th for our Napa Green Town Hall at @stsupery.
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Don’t miss the awe-inspiring @nikki_silvestri at @dominusestatewinery on Nov 30th!
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You’re invited to join us for a very special day at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th. 

We’ll be briefly interviewing our speaker @nikki_silvestri right here on Instagram today at 2:00pm PST to hear more about what to expect at this event. See you then.
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Curious to learn more? Join us at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th for a rare event and luncheon. Link in bio for details.
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GREEN is the new black this season!! 

Head to the link in our bio now and get your shirts, help a good cause and be an honorary part of Team Green this season! 💚
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Let’s hear it for our Executive Director of Napa Green, the incomparable Anna Brittain for being named a 2023 Wine Industry Leader by @winebusinessmonthly!! 

In their Sustainability Stewards section (which we love to see) we find Anna named in good company with inspired fellow leaders! 

Head to our stories or the link in our bio for free access to the full November issue. 

Cheers to the great work of our visionary Director Anna Brittain!!
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Drink Green this Halloween! 💚
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Sierra is our Soil & Climate Specialist at Napa Green and her ask this year is that everyone consider donating to our small but mighty Team Green for Giving Season! 

Here is more from @regenwithsierra: 

“🎃 Happy Halloween Eve everyone! Today is my birthday, and I would be beyond thrilled if you would consider a donation to @napagreen to support a nonprofit focused on climate action in the wine industry 🍷🍾

@napagreen has the leading set of standards for sustainable practices, from soil to bottle. I am most proud of the work we do with winegrape growers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices in their vineyards. 

Please consider supporting us in our mission!  Click the link in bio for more! “
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Thank you for having us @visitnapavalley! We had a great time talking to visitors about the many sustainability practices our Napa Green wineries and vineyards employ! 

Stop into the Visit Napa Valley Visitor Center in Napa to learn more!
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