Red, White & Green

California wineries are joining the increasing number of industries that are instituting sustainable and carbon-friendly methods of operation. To date, although only one winery, located in Napa Valley, has received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council , numerous wineries and vineyards are implementing growing, harvesting, fermentation, storage, bottling and shipping practices that reduce pesticide and water use, conserve energy and maximize recycling. These practices include increased use of renewable energy such as solar and biofuels, reduced tillage, increased use of drip irrigation, conversion of harvesting and juice processing activities to nighttime operations, changing lighting from incandescent to fluorescent systems, use of cover for barrel aging rather than warehouses and foam insulation on fermentation and storage tanks. While providing a potential marketing advantage and favorable public perception, these measures also have a direct impact on the facility’s bottom line by decreasing the usage, and associated costs, of water and energy.

Some of the techniques employed by the Napa Valley winery to obtain LEED certification included installation of radiant floors to allow for more precise temperature control, use of solar panels to generate more than a third of the facility’s energy needs, use of recycled building materials, and water conservation through use of drought-tolerant plants and low-flow water outlets. A recently completed custom crush facility in Buellton employed many of these same [techniques] as well as selecting its location to minimize vehicle miles traveled by its customers.

As is often the case, however, regulatory requirements can result in unintended and counterproductive consequences. For example, the Buellton facility was required by the local air pollution control district to install scrubbers to reduce the emissions of ethanol, a byproduct of fermentation and storage. Powering these scrubbers caused an increase in the facility’s emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas. Another Central Coast custom crush facility is experimenting with a pilot project to re-distill the ethanol to obviate scrubbers. Obviously the interplay between operating aims and regulatory requirements is a crucial consideration when planning and undertaking any project.

Although vineyards and wineries may not be covered under an initial cap and trade program, their ability to achieve quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions may result in the creation of credits that can be sold to program participants. Greenberg Glusker is uniquely positioned to assist wineries, or other facilities, to maximize their carbon reduction within the existing regulatory context. With one of the few LEED AP certified lawyers in California and extensive experience working with local and state environmental regulatory agencies, Greenberg Glusker can advise at the planning, construction and operation phases of a project.