Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Burrowing Owl's big commitment to solar

Photo: Burrowing Owl's Jim Wyse (photo courtesy of Burrowing Owl Winery)

The recent election in the United States may have put the Paris Accord on climate change into some trouble.

However, foot dragging by a state is no excuse for the rest of us to drag our feet as well. On that score, I must pay tribute to the way that the Jim Wyse and his family at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery continue to lighten the winery’s environmental footprint while making excellent wines.

There are notes below on six of the winery’s most recent releases.

I have also gone to the winery’s website and I am reproducing Burrowing Owl’s commendable work with solar energy over the last 10 years.

The Use of Solar Energy at Burrowing Owl: An Alternative, Renewable Energy Source
The south Okanagan valley is one of Canada’s best locations for capturing perpetual, green energy from the sun and converting into either heat or electricity. In 2016 Burrowing Owl is moving forward with a major commitment to photovoltaic (PV or electrical) solar panels, that will produce clean/green electricity efficiently for the next 25 years.
Solar Hot Water
Ten years ago, Burrowing Owl winery made its first foray into renewable solar energy panels to produce hot water, a commodity that wineries use in large quantities for barrel washing and other cellar-related cleansing functions. During the hottest summer months, our hot-water solar panels actually produce more hot water than we can use or store, so any excess heat is “dumped” into our swimming pool to the delight of our Guest House patrons.
The existing solar panels currently produce the equivalent of 48,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours) annually, and offset CO2 emissions of approximately 12,300 Kg (13.6 tons) annually.
Solar Electric
During the last couple of years, like flat-screen TVs, the price of solar panels has plummeted as world-wide acceptance of the technology takes hold. Perhaps because of the abundance of hydro-electricity in this province, and the low cost of electricity here, the incentive to move to solar electric alternatives lags far behind the rest of the world, despite the significantly reduced up-front installation cost of recent years.
In 2016 Burrowing Owl will be installing three sizable solar electric systems in conjunction with the new construction that is currently underway at the winery (July 2016) which will ultimately increase the size of our cellar by 7,500 sq ft.
Cellar Expansion:
This expansion at the northern end of the winery has 3,350 sq. ft. of open roof-top space. This area will be blanketed by 70 solar panels, each producing 310-volts of electricity.  In total these 70 panels are expected to produce 25,770 kWh/year, while offsetting approximately 13,825 Kg (15.2 tons) of CO2 emissions annually.
Parking Lot Shade Structure:
In the centre of our parking area is a landscaped “island” where 12 cars would normally park. By the late fall of 2016, we hope to have designed and installed a protective cover over these 12 parking spaces that will consist of a roof that provides shade and protection from rain, and will support 220 solar panels. These panels will generate 80,500 kWh/year and will offset CO2 emissions of 43,175 Kg (47.6 tons).
Warehouse (Oliver):
The winery’s main warehouse is located in Oliver, and currently is also undergoing expansion so that in the end it will contain 45,000 sf of heated/air-conditioned and secure space. In spite of rigorous wall and ceiling insulation, the average electrical power usage is approximately 65,000 kWh/annually.
As part of the new construction work, 161 solar panels will be installed on the south-facing portion of the roof that will generate almost exactly our annual usage (65,000 kWh/year) and reduce carbon emissions by 34,900 Kg (38.4 tons). Since the energy produced will match the energy used, this facility will have a “zero carbon footprint”, probably the first such claim to be made in our region by anybody.
Electric Car Charging Stations
As a demonstration of our support for electrically powered automobiles, in 2016, Burrowing Owl will be installing four charging stations in the parking area for the use of our visitors and staff.
In 2006, Burrowing Owl took its first step into renewable energy with an investment into solar hot water panels.
Our second step in 2016 will be to install three separate clusters of solar electric panels totalling 451 panels that will produce a total of 171,200 kWh/year off the grid, forever.
By the end of 2016, the total contribution of solar energy at Burrowing Owl from all sources, will be the equivalent of 220,000 kWh/year, which will offset carbon emissions by 115 tons/year. These are large numbers, and both of which we are very proud. 

Here are notes on the wines.

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2014 ($25). This restrained and elegant wine begins with buttery, citrus aromas leading to flavours of citrus and stone fruit, with subtle notes of oak. Sixty percent of the wine was fermented in oak, mostly French, of which 30% was new. 91.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2014 ($30). The wine begins with aromas of cherry and strawberry. On the palate, the fruit flavours unfold layer after layer, with notes of cherry, blackberry and spice. The velvet texture completes the personality of a very pretty wine. 91.

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2014 ($40). The wine begins with aromas of ripe, dark fruit – plum and black cherry – with floral notes, perhaps reflecting the four percent co-fermented Viognier in the blend. It is rich and juicy on the palate, with a smoky hint on the finish. 92.

Burrowing Owl Merlot 2013 ($30). Dark in colour, the wine begins with ar0mas of black currant and blueberry. On the palate, the fruit is ripe and intense – black cherry, black currant, mulberry – but also vibrant, with spicy notes on the finish. The texture is firm. 92.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($35). This wine begins with aromas of black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there is a core of sweet fruit (cherry, black currant) with a hint of eucalyptus. There is savoury fruit on the finish. The long ripe tannins give the wine a polished texture. It is drinking well now but also will age well for 10 years. 92.

Burrowing Owl Athene 2013 ($38). This is 52% Syrah and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented together. It is generous on the palate, with layers of fruit – plum, blueberry and black cherry – with chocolate, coffee and tobacco on the finish. The fullness comes from the Syrah and the backbone from the Cabernet. A delicious wine. 93. 

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