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Jarrod Boyle, winemaker at Alexandria Nicole Cellars and managing partner of Destiny Ridge Vineyards, likes the looks of the new turbines.

Jarrod Boyle, winemaker at Alexandria Nicole Cellars and managing partner of Destiny Ridge Vineyards, likes the looks of the new turbines.

The vertical wind turbines look more like artwork than they do wind machines, Jarrod Boyle says of the renewable energy project installed at Destiny Ridge Vineyards/Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

Since September, the Horse Heaven Hills vineyard and winery that overlooks the Columbia River near Alderdale, Washington, has turned wind into electricity from its Windspire energy system. The propeller-free, vertical axis design represents new technology for small wind power systems with a range of potential uses, from homeowner to farmer to business owner.

“During sunrise and sunset, when the turbines reflect the red, orange and pink colors, it’s pretty amazing,” said Boyle, managing partner in Destiny Ridge Vineyards and winemaker for Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

The wind turbines are part of Boyle’s efforts to be more sustainable and self-sufficient in the vineyard and winery. While not the first Windspire installation in a vineyard, the wind turbines at Destiny Ridge were the first in a Pacific Northwest vineyard and are the largest grouping at a vineyard thus far. Hunt Country Vineyards of New York’s Finger Lakes region was the first, installing its single turbine in 2009.

Better payback

“We considered solar energy, but the wind turbines had a little better payback, could be contained in a smaller footprint, and had more pleasing aesthetics than the solar panels,” he said. “And with the wind up here, we thought it would be appropriate.

“The new technology is much quieter than traditional wind machines and more bird friendly because the ­reflections scare the birds.”

The turbines, laid out in tidy rows, were installed next to the vineyard in view of a picnic area behind the winery. A patch of rocky ground 20 yards by 100 yards was used as the pad for the 20-turbine cluster. Although the rock bed created additional challenges and expense in pouring the cement footings, Boyle didn’t have to remove any vines to site the “artwork.”

The turbines are 30 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Each turbine is rated to generate 1.2 kilowatts per hour. At an average wind speed of 11 miles per hour, one turbine will generate 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year, according to Chase Houston, Windspire’s international sales coordinator. For reference, an average home uses between 8,000 to 10,000 kilowatt-hours annually, he adds.

With 20 wind turbines, some 40,000 kilowatt-hours in a year could be generated—more than enough to power the winery production facilities and the vineyard that includes a farm shop, foreman’s house, and outbuildings. Pumping is not needed to run irrigation for the vineyard.

The turbines start generating electricity at about 8 mph winds, and a safety brake mechanism stops them spinning when winds exceed 27 mph.

Smaller footprint

Boyle said that their interest in renewable energy came from wanting to be more sustainable and self-contained, and reduce the size of their environmental footprint. Since the early 2000s, he has taken an environmentally friendly approach in the vineyard, emphasizing integrated pest management techniques and minimizing the use of pesticides. They have also minimized processes where possible in the winery. For example, they no longer put foil on the top of bottles.

Though the turbines are located hundreds of miles from most of their customers, Boyle hopes they will serve as a visual reminder of their commitment to the environment to those who visit Destiny Ridge and the winery.

With events held at the winery about once a month, there will be plenty of opportunity to showcase the wind turbines. He plans to add solar lights to the silver towers to make them stand out during evening events.

Eventually, they hope to have a real-time wind turbine monitor on a Web site that could be viewed in their Prosser and Woodinville tasting rooms, giving visitors a chance to see the turbines at work. “We’d like to have some kind of program for our wine club members that would give them a discount based on the current wind speed. If they checked the speed while they were in the tasting room and it was more than their member discount, they could get the wind discount on wine purchases.”

Tax incentive

Boyle admits that it would take a long time for the wind turbines—on their own—to pay for the initial investment. But a combination of federal, state and local incentives dramatically changed the economic picture. He is receiving a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government in the first year as well as incentives from the local public utility district.

The cost to install each turbine was about $8,000, he said, noting that their rocky ground added to the installation costs. With 20 turbines, that’s a $160,000 investment.

Extra power generated by the turbines that is not used by the vineyard or winery is sold back to the local utility company. In his budget plan, the wind turbines should pay for themselves in about four years.

Incentive programs, rebates, and tax credits for renewable energy programs vary by state and utility company, but some are quite generous. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has grant money available for renewable energy projects through its REAP (Renewable Energy for America Program). (See “REAP can benefit orchardists” on page 31.) In some areas, the combination of federal, state, and local incentives can provide up to $4,800 per turbine, according to ­Windspire Energy.

Growing interest

Windspire Energy is a privately held company headquartered in Reno, Nevada. Its patented Windspire turbine is made in a retrofitted automotive industry plant in Manistee, Michigan

Houston, at Windspire, said that much of the interest in their product comes from small business owners for use in commercial settings. But, he adds, the turbines are springing up everywhere—even at parks, museums, and universities. At Adobe Systems corporate headquarters in San Jose, California, 20 wind turbines were placed near a basketball court to take advantage of a wind tunnel effect created by three multistory buildings.

“Small business owners see the turbines as a way to attract people and set themselves apart from their competition,” said Houston, adding that the small turbines are unobtrusive, virtually silent, and generate clean energy.

The Windspire turbines are designed to be a turnkey installation, he said. More than 150 dealers across the United States have been certified by Windspire to install their turbines.