Hunter Valley’s Drayton Family Wines recently powered up a 200 kilowatt (kW) solar farm with the intent of saving money on its power bills, following suit with thousands of other businesses across Australia. General manager John Drayton expects the system to pay itself off within the next four years, after which point the ‘free’ electricity it generates will save the company around $80,000 annually, according to the Newcastle Herald.
The system, one of the largest in the Hunter Valley region, was financed in part through the federal government’s now defunct Clean Technology Food and Foundries investment program. ‘‘This can only be good for the Hunter. This is a great example of business working in partnership with the government,” said parliamentary secretary for industry Bob Baldwin about the project. ‘‘Drayton’s Family Wines now has the power to increase their production, reduce costs and increase their exports to growing markets like China.”
Solar farms like the one owned by Drayton Family Wines have become increasingly popular as the cost of solar PV technology has fallen in Australia and across the globe. Many companies have made the investment in a system even without the same sort of government support that the Draytons received–about half the cost of the system was financed by the government. However, the systems selected are ordinarily smaller. Systems under 100kW are currently eligible for what is effectively an up-front ‘discount’ on the cost of installation through the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET), although there is concern that this may change when the scheme is reviewed later this year. Larger systems instead receive incentive benefits through the RET on an ongoing basis, as they produce electricity.
The vineyard is jointly owned by Max Drayton and his two sons. The family business has been in operation for over 150 years, while Max himself has over 60 years’ experience in wine production. This makes him a valuable source of advice and information for other wine growers in the region, according to the their website. The company exports its wines all over the globe.
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