SPENCER, Ind. (AP) — You've heard of sun tea. How about sun wine?
Sunlight's not exactly powering fermentation, but a winery in Owen County is installing solar panels that it hopes will offset more than 65 percent of its annual electricity use. And its owners want their experience with the equipment to be a resource for others who are interested in pumping solar power into their businesses.
"We're disclosing everything we know — the costs we incurred, the labor — so people can look at this," said Anthony Leaderbrand, one of four family members who are equal partners in the Owen Valley Winery. "A lot of people don't really understand what it takes to get from point A to point B, and neither did we."
Owen Valley Winery is putting in an 8.5 kilowatt, $40,000 photovoltaic system that will produce electricity. It's mounting 34 panels on the roof of a barn that stands a few yards away from the winery's tasting room at 491 Timber Ridge Road to the south of Spencer.
The winery is footing $30,000 of the system's costs. The other $10,000 comes from a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Preston Leaderbrand, who is Anthony Leaderbrand's father and another partner in the winery, has been thinking about installing solar panels for about three years. Green energy has been one of his interests for a long time, and he already has geothermal heating and cooling in his nearby home.
But the time wasn't right for solar panels at the winery until now. Nor was the price.
"I've been putting it off," Preston Leaderbrand told The Herald-Times. "I couldn't print enough green money."
He did, however, do research, attending Purdue University seminars. Those seminars recommended solar power for green energy in the part of Indiana south of Interstate 70, Preston Leaderbrand said. They recommended wind energy for the part of the state north of the interstate.
When it came time to apply for the USDA grant, Preston Leaderbrand had some help. He worked with Mann Plumbing Inc. MPI Solar, a Bloomington firm that's now installing the solar panels at the winery.
Mann Plumbing MPI Solar began as a plumbing company in 1992. But it added solar installation to its offerings in 2008. The company has set up solar hot water and photovoltaic systems in Bloomington and in other cities in Indiana, according to its president and founder, David Mann.
"The system will have a monitor that will tell the Leaderbrands exactly what it's producing," Mann said. "There's a website that will have login information for the owners, and they can publish that, make that available on a monitor or put it on a website if they choose."
The solar panels will produce electricity that will power Owen Valley Winery equipment such as refrigerator units, pumps and lights. There will likely be times when the winery won't use the system's full load, meaning it can feed energy back into the electricity grid, said Amie McCarty, MPI director of sales and marketing. And Owen Valley Winery will be able to sell solar renewable energy credits to utilities in Ohio and Washington, D.C., that need to buy them.
"They have monetary value," McCarty said. "It's a commodities market like pork bellies or corn futures."
Owen Valley Winery's new solar panels have a projected service life of 30 years and projected generation of at least 12,000 kilowatt-hours per year. The winery thinks they will offset more than 600,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses over their service life and save it thousands of dollars in energy costs. And it's open to adding more panels if they do prove to be a good investment.
The winery applied for the USDA grant this spring at the department's Bloomfield office. The grant was awarded in the summer, and two Mann Plumbing MPI Solar employees have been installing the panels for about a week.
They're nearly finished, and Owen Valley Winery is planning to celebrate the panels' installation Oct. 5. The celebration will start at 1 p.m. and include food, live music and wine.
Owen Valley Winery's equal partners are Anthony Leaderbrand, his wife Jo Anna, his mother Bonnie and his father Preston. Anthony Leaderbrand said his father, a former coal miner, was the driving force behind the new solar panels.
"I absolutely want to give him complete credit for this thing," Anthony Leaderbrand said. "I know this is something that comes from his heart. I know this is something he wants to do as a personal achievement in his life."
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com