California Vineyard Reaps Savings From Sustainability Efforts

SCE provides energy management solutions to reduce power usage and costs for agricultural businesses at the annual World Ag Expo.

The secret to cultivating perfectly ripe and crisp grapes in a sprawling vineyard is timing and the right amount of water — not too much and not too little.

Columbine Vineyards grows, packs and ships more than 15 varieties of red, black and green table grapes. Third- and fourth-generation Caratan family members have continued their family legacy that began with Marin Caratan, who started harvesting crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1926.

“As we have grown, we have looked for even more efficient ways to do business,” said John Carter, facility manager at Columbine Vineyards. “To continue to be profitable, we need to pursue every avenue.”

Columbine Vineyards worked closely with Southern California Edison to develop sustainable solutions for their expanding company, including a new cold storage facility that spans 200,000 square feet.

2017 World Ag Expo
John Carter, facility manager at Columbine Vineyards, helped his company save energy and money through SCE’s energy-efficiency programs.

To reduce electricity use and their carbon footprint, the company participated in Savings By Design, a program that offers incentives to encourage high-performance, non-residential building design and construction.

By installing energy-efficient features — including improved insulation levels, aggressive refrigeration and fan controls, high-efficiency light fixtures and motion sensors — during the construction of its new cold storage facility, the company received approximately $129,000 in incentives. They also saw an annual savings of 957,000 kilowatt-hours — equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions reductions of nearly 674,000 pounds per year.

“It helped us save money and make the project more energy efficient than it would have been otherwise,” said Carter.

Business and residential customers will be able to sit down with SCE representatives to discuss how they too can better manage their energy usage and bills at the 50th annual World Ag Expo held this Tuesday through Thursday in Tulare. They can also receive free on-site rate analysis of their energy usage.

The installation of variable frequency drives, a controller that allows farmers to speed up and slow down their pumps to match flow according to their crops and irrigation needs, is one of SCE’s most popular cost-saving programs for agricultural businesses, according to Frank Yanes, an account manager in SCE’s Tulare Regional Office.

“There are different rate options for the services we offer to agricultural business and residential customers. We help them strategize, look at their rates and help them to understand what best fits their operations,” he said.

The historic drought in California has brought more focus to the different technologies that let farmers have more control over water distribution to get a better yield of crops.

Columbine Vineyards added variable frequency drives on two water pumps, lowering the pumping cost per acre-foot for water delivered to its fields and saving more than $44,000 in incentives for their upgrades.

For them, sustainability is just as important as profitability.

“It’s become second nature,” said Carter. “It’s something we just do.”