UC Davis Pushes Green Winery Envelope

The University of California, Davis, wasn’t done when it opened “the most technologically advanced and environmentally sophisticated winery in the world” last year. Now the university, the nation’s leading center for wine-related study, has broken ground on an adjacent 8,000-square-foot building that it said will allow the complex to become the first “self-sustainable, zero-carbon teaching and research facility in the world.”

Two of winemaking’s biggest ecological pressure points are water use for sanitation, and carbon dioxide production from fermentation. On both counts, the new UC Davis building will work to obviate impacts. Rainwater will undergo high-purity filtration and be used for cleaning fermenters and barrels in the winery, and 90 percent of the water and chemicals from each winery cleaning cycle will be captured and processed for future use in the complex, eventually being used as many as 10 times, the university said.

UC Davis sustainable winery

image via Shutterstock

Solar panels on the winery building will provide power for, among other things, and icemaker that will be used to produce chilled water. Those same panels will also power an electrolysis system that will produce hydrogen gas, allowing the winery to use a hydrogen fuel cell for nighttime energy production.

On CO2, “the building will sequester carbon dioxide captured from all fermentations in the winery and convert it into calcium carbonate, or chalk, which will be given to a plasterboard company,” the university said.

The new structure will bear the name Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, in honor of the late California wine giant (think Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay). Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, pledged $3 million to the university, which will go a long way toward meeting the new building’s $4 million cost. The building is expected to be completed in 2013.

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.