Fuel Cell Powers Organic Farm, Winery

They make wine in sunny places, which is why “winery goes solar” has become something of a refrain at EarthTechling (see our stories here, here and here). But fuel-cell powered wineries? We hadn’t heard about that before Stone Edge Farm came along.

Stone Edge grows organic Cabernet Sauvignon and a little bit of Merlot in California’s Sonoma Valley, producing wines that retail for between $30 and $60. The winery turned to a company familiar to EarthTechling readers, Hillsboro, Ore.-based ClearEdge Power, for a cleaner and less expensive way to provide the energy it needs to pump water to its vines, keep fermentation-tank temperatures in line, transfer wine from tanks to barrels – all the things that go into making wine. What they got was a ClearEdge5 system, which uses a 5-kilowatt fuel cell hooked into an existing natural gas line to drive its electrochemical process for producing electricity and heat.

fuel-cell powered farm and vineyard, Stone Edge Farm

image via Stone Edge Farm

ClearEdge said the system installed will save Stone Edge Farm 49 percent on its electricity bill and keep 24,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from rising into the atmosphere every year.  Over a 20-year period, the system will save the winery upward of $250,000 in energy costs, ClearEdge said.

CleanEdge5, CleanEdge Power

image via CleanEdge Power

While this was the first fuel cell we’d heard about going in at a winery, the announcement from CleanEdge prompted a little digging around and we found that Sutter Home, also in Napa Valley, recently had a Bloom Box installed on its estate, and that a Penn State professor was testing a wastewater-to-hydrogen-gas system at Napa Wine Company.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.