PASO ROBLES - The Summer Solstice, the official beginning of the summer season, is less than a week away. Temperatures are reaching the triple digits across the Central Coast, especially in inland areas like Paso Robles.
There, wine makers face triple-digit costs to cool their barrel rooms. Steve Cass is one of them.
He came from the Bay Area more than a decade ago. At the time, he was a Vice President for Charles Schwab.
Steve Cass tells how the Central Coast won him over, "I came down to Paso Robles with my wife, thinking about maybe a second home, fell in love with the area. Our first drive, vineyard drive was just stunning." Now, he brings sustainably-grown wines to the Central Coast through Cass Vineyards and Winery.
Cass explains what makes the wines sustainable: "We use an absolute minimum amount of pesticides and herbicides. The way we do that, is we maintain biological diversity inside the vineyards, so there's no need to do those kinds of things. The occasional weed may not look good, but it's not going to kill your vines."
A new addition to the sustainably-grown, hillside property is taking it one step closer to eco-consciousness: three rows of solar panels to power the winery, and the chillers, which keep the wine barrels cold. "And we're not talking 72 degrees cold; wine likes to be 62-degrees cold. So, if it's 100 degrees outside, and you're trying to keep your winery, where the wine is stored, at 62, that's a 40-degree range, that's a huge range," Cass stresses he used to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 a month on his PG&E bill.
Now, just a few months into garnering energy from the heat of the Central Coast sun, he's not paying anything. Cass says the point is to come to a zero balance at the end of the year.
He knows it will add up to major savings in the long run, but this early in the process, it's a different story:Right now it's a different story, "It kind of works out to about an 8% after tax investment, which is not the world's best investment. But that's at today's rates. As power prices go up, of course that return would look better."
At the end of the day, by generating 100-percent of his yearly power usage, he's helping the environment, and himself.
With the money saved, Cass hopes eventually to build a bed and breakfast on the vineyard property... and he'll add 50-percent more solar panels in order to power it.
Friday, May 24 2013 4:18 AM EDT2013-05-24 08:18:45 GMT
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