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Pear Valley turns ‘sunshine into wine’ with new solar system 

Pear Valley's solar system. Courtesy photo.

Pear Valley’s solar system. Courtesy photo.

Pear Valley and Solarponics turn ‘sunshine into wine’ with solar implementation

Pear Valley and Solarponics have successfully implemented a solar system at Pear Valley Winery that generates more power than the winery uses. The new system has a unique design that serves as a shade structure, and has numerous environmental benefits.

“Our intention from the time we began designing the winery was to have the facility powered by solar,” said Kathleen Maas, co-owner of Pear Valley. “With the existing incentives and tax credits available we felt the timing was right to put this final piece of our sustainability plan in place. Finding the right solar partner who was able to implement a system to meet our needs in terms of both size and design was critical. We were delighted to find Solarponics, a local business with 40 years experience, was able to work with us to build a custom structure that stands above our equipment and exterior working area of the winery.”

The solar installation at Pear Valley winery includes 545 American-made SolarWorld panels in two arrays. Each of the arrays was implemented as a canopy system, over the exterior working area of the winery, capturing the power of the sun while providing shade for winery equipment and workers. The entire project, including construction, was $769,000. The solar system will offset 100% of the monthly electric needs with a payback of approximately 3.5-4 years — without the government incentive program the payback period would have been closer to 7 years.

Each year the system will save 257,766 gallons of water, remove 2,828 pounds of sulfur dioxide, eliminate 1,765 pounds of nitrogen dioxide production, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 491,837 pounds — the equivalent to saving 89,879 trees each year, according to the winery.

“Pear Valley was an exciting project for us. It posed many challenges and opportunities to showcase a sizable energy system, maintain full usefulness of the crush pad, and preserve the aesthetics of the property,” says Kristian Emrich, Solarponics president. “They’re our perfect client, a great model of sustainability, from solar to water conservation to building design and construction.”

Additional initiatives include:
• 22 water recharge/water retention pits were cut through the clay/hard pan layers and are used to collect rain water that is naturally filtered through the alluvial soil.
• The winery utilizes an ESBR (Elutriate Systems Bio Reactor) to rapidly and efficiently digest winery wastewater. The wastewater system gravity feeds to the bio reactor and in turn the treated effluent gravity feeds to the irrigation pond that is powered with a wind mill. The treated effluent is then used to irrigate the vineyards.
• 10 soil moisture monitors are installed throughout the vineyard to properly assess irrigation needs, ensuring only the required amount of water is used
• Pear Valley’s 14,000 square foot winery and 5,000 square foot tasting were designed in partnership with PG&E through their “Savings By Design” program to design buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally sound.
• Pear Valley achieved Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyard Certification in 2012. Attaining SIP Certification demonstrates dedication to vineyard practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically-viable.
• A small fleet of electric vehicles are used including John Deer gators for vineyard workers, a golf cart for guest transportation during events and staff use, and the Maas’ Tesla for transportation to numerous wine functions — all will be charged with a Tesla 240 volt charger using the new solar system.

Pear Valley and Solarponics will be hosting a sustainability open house on May 7 from 6-8 p.m. at 4900 Union Road, Paso Robles. During the open house, attendees will be able to tour the solar facilities, learn more about the winery’s sustainability projects and talk with Pear Valley’s sustainability partners including Solarponics, John Deere, Tesla and Central Coast Vineyard Team. Wine tasting and live music by Soul Sauce will be offered during the event. The winery will be collecting food donations for the Food Bank and ask that attendees make a contribution.

“We invite other winery and vineyard owners to come and discuss sustainability initiatives with our partners. It is important to us that we all do our part to ensure future generations are able to continue farming and enjoying the beautiful Paso Robles wine country,” stated Tom Maas, co-owner at Pear Valley.

About Pear Valley

Pear Valley is a family business founded by Tom and Kathleen Maas in 1999 when they planted their first 20 acre vineyard in Paso Robles. Today the Maas family craft wines from their estate, now comprising 113 Sustainably in Practice (SIP) certified acres growing 24 different grape varietals, a 14,000 square foot winery powered by solar and operated following environmentally sound practices, and a tasting room offering public tastings daily from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. with special events throughout the year. For additional information visit or call (805) 237-2867.

About Solarponics

Established in 1975, Solarponics is also the oldest solar energy company in California, with over 4,000 commercial and residential customers. Solarponics wrote the resolution to proclaim June 21 Solar Energy Day in San Luis Obispo County. Solarponics can be reached by calling (805) 466-5595, emailing or visiting

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at