Participants install solar panels, high-efficiency lighting, more
By MITCH LIES
CARLTON, Ore. -- Wineries, according to the Oregon Wine Board, aren't big energy guzzlers.
But that hasn't stopped 14 Oregon wineries from shrinking their carbon footprint.
The wineries announced April 27 they have completed a three-year carbon neutral challenge designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their ultimate goal is to be carbon neutral.
The wineries represent approximately 20 percent of Oregon's wine production. It is the largest group of U.S. winemakers to participate in a greenhouse gas reduction program, according to the Oregon Environmental Council, which partnered with the Oregon Wine Board on the project.
Participating winery owners said they are concerned that left unchecked, climate change will have a devastating impact on Oregon's livability and agriculture -- particularly on Oregon's wine grape industry.
"The Oregon wine industry is the canary in the coal mine (in regards to climate change)," said Eric Lemelson, owner of Lemelson Vineyards in Carlton. "We will be among the first Oregonians to suffer economic decline."
Quoting from a National Academy of Sciences study, Lemelson said, global warming could by the end of the century eliminate all U.S. wine grape production except for small pockets in Northwest Washington and Northern Maine.
Also, Lemelson said, under some global warming models, within a few decades the Willamette Valley will have 60 days a year of peak temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I'd rather have this," Lemelson said, looking up at an overcast sky.
In the carbon neutral challenge, participating wineries contracted with a third party to audit their energy use. Participants then worked to reduce their energy consumption through changes in cultural practices and the installation of energy-efficient equipment.
Several participating wineries, for example, have installed solar panels, purchased high-efficiency lighting, and reconfigured structures to capture daylight and keep cellared wine cool without air conditioning.
Wineries also invest in carbon offset projects.
"The learning curve was surprisingly steep," said Tony Soter, owner of Soter Vineyards in Carlton, who is among the participating winery owners.
Reducing energy use typically requires some upfront investment, winery owners said, but much of that is recouped over time through lower energy bills.
Also, winery owners said, some of what they are doing eventually could become mandatory, putting them ahead of the curve.
To date, the wineries haven't used their environmental achievements to help market their wines.
"We want a livable planet," Lemelson said when asked why he is participating in the project. "This is just the right thing to do."