Vineyard Toasts Energy Self-Sufficiency

Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars in South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley recently installed a V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) electric energy system, which helps power everything from household utilities to outdoor power equipment. John Power reports.

Joseph and Sue Evans, from Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars, are in the process of electrifying their entire property’s mechanical infrastructure.
Joseph and Sue Evans, from Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars, are in the process of electrifying their entire property’s mechanical infrastructure.

OPERATOR: Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars
REPRESENTATIVES: Owners Joseph and Sue Evans
LOCATION: Barossa Valley, South Australia
CONTACT: www.ballycroft.com

As vineyard owners, Joseph and Sue Evans from Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars in South Australia know that sunshine is vital for producing healthy crops.

But sunshine is actually playing a much greater role in securing the profitability and security of the couple’s business – solar energy is now the cornerstone of the property’s day-to-day operations, providing affordable, self-sufficient, power to run everything from household whitegoods to agricultural assets like an electric ride-on mower and electric whipper snipper.

The property has a conventional household solar array for everyday solar energy production. But what about night-time energy requirements? Most domestic solar energy systems with battery storage have fairly small capacities, typically in the range of 10-13kW. Unsurprisingly, such battery systems can become depleted in just a few hours after sunset, particularly during peak heating and cooling periods between 6-9pm. 

Ballycroft’s solution? Use a Wallbox Quasar V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) system to harness the energy stored in the 40kW batteries of Joseph and Sue’s Nissan LEAF car, which can then be used to provide evening and overnight power to the property. The Nissan LEAF is the only factory-delivered and warranted, V2G-capable, all-electric vehicle on the Australian market today.

Instead of paying more than $6,000pa to power their household and vineyard, Joseph and Sue now earn $2,500pa thanks to a rebate tariff which remunerates them for surplus energy at a rate of $0.08kW/h. The rebate, Joseph admits, is simply icing on the cake – the real payback is free energy, combined with full energy independence in the event of blackouts during critical winemaking procedures. (Blackouts, unfortunately, are common in the area, and can threaten an entire vintage in worst-case scenarios.)

Ballycroft is one of the first properties approved by South Australian Power Network (SAPN) to use V2G technology. The Network has been a national leader in the installation and integration of renewable energy and distributed energy resources within their catchment. And South Australian customers can now apply to SAPN to install a Wallbox Quasar V2G unit in the same way that they would apply for a new home solar or battery installation. Charging infrastructure supplier JET Charge is now taking orders from South Australian customers for Wallbox Quasar V2G chargers. Other states and territories are sure to follow – securing the required approvals is a work in progress.

Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars. Practically all machinery on the 15ac property is now electric, including a Parklands ride-on mower and Nissan LEAF electric passenger vehicle.
Practically all machinery on the 15ac property is now electric, including a Parklands ride-on mower and Nissan LEAF electric passenger vehicle.

PRACTICALITIES

Joseph says the V2G system’s installation took some effort due to the newness of the technology. Last October, the couple upgraded their 8kW AC inverter to an 11kW DC inverter with a 22kW BYD battery stack. “This means that when the power’s off my solar still works because it’s going through an off-grid DC inverter, and if it was night time my battery would kick in.”

Under the new configuration with added V2G capability, there is more than ample off-grid power to run or charge all major domestic appliances and vineyard-related devices after dark simultaneously (except for some specialised chilling equipment).

Given the 40kW capacity of the Nissan LEAF battery, Joseph says power drawn from the car batteries during the evening can be replenished easily the following morning within a couple of hours. Under normal circumstances, the car uses approximately 14kW per 100km of travel, equating to $1.12 in energy costs (rebate tariff equivalent), saving approximately $2,000pa in petrol costs. The same cost savings (based on kWh useage), of course, apply to other household and vineyard electric energy consumptions.

A NEW OUTLOOK

The adoption of solar power as the single power source for all of the property’s appliances and machinery has entailed a fresh, centralised approach to energy management. Instead of outdoor power equipment, for example, being a self-contained asset class of the property, with its own separate petrol/diesel supplies and storage needs, Joseph and Sue now regard all powered devices – from the living room air conditioning and stovetop to the electric chainsaw, car and whipper snipper – as conjoined elements of one shared power platform. 

The transition to electric outdoor power equipment has been a multi-year process that began 15 years ago with the purchase of Electrocoup Pruning Shears (the property has 10 acres under vine) for hand pruning.

“Last year we bought an electric Makita chainsaw, and we also replaced an eight-year-old John Deere 120 ride-on with 800hrs on the clock with an electric Greenworks Pro 60V ride-on mower, with four extra batteries, which means we can mow and spray at the same time under vines and spray fungicide.

“We bought the Greenworks mower from Mowers Plus Mount Barker after seeing an advertisement in your magazine!” 

Last year Ballycroft also upgraded its wine fermentation chilling equipment with the aid of a Government Energy Efficient Grant. “We replaced a 50-year-old Kelvinator 8hp milk vat chiller with a more efficient, safer Danfoss Optyma 10kW Condensing Unit. 

“And this year we intend to replace our winery gas 300Lhot water service with an energy-efficient heat pump,” Joseph explains.

Other imminent acquisitions include a Greenworks whipper snipper, as well as a 2.5t electric forklift to replace a 2.5t Nissan petrol/gas unit.

Ultimately, the couple plans to purchase an electric ute to replace their existing 2.2 Ford Ranger ute.

PERFORMANCE

Many observers of these kinds of transitions are sceptical about the performance of electric equipment compared with petrol or diesel predecessors.

However, Joseph is quick to defend the ease of use and effectiveness of good-quality electric devices.

“For example, I purchased our Greenworks electric ride-on mower last September to replace a petrol ride-on– it was a great time to buy it because we had our wettest October ever and I’ve mowed our 15ac property probably nine times,” he says. “I’ve done 146 hours in it in just over one season.

Ballycroft is among the first properties in Australia to make use of V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) renewable energy via their Nissan LEAF electric car. Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars
Ballycroft is among the first properties in Australia to make use of V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) renewable energy via their Nissan LEAF electric car.

“Cutting-wise, it’s just as good as petrol; back in September and October, if it was a little bit wet, the mowing deck could clog up just as easily as the petrol mower’s, so you have to go a bit slower.

“But it’s a little bit faster than the petrol and much more efficient – you’ve got no belts, no grease nipples on the mandrel housing that runs the blades. You just turn it on and go. And I purchased four extra batteries. It’ll run for about 1 hr 50 mins just on general mowing of the vineyard, and batteries take one hour to recharge. So, you constantly have batteries ready to go.”

The Nissan LEAF electric vehicle forms an important part of the vineyard’s centralised electric power management system. Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars.
The Nissan LEAF electric vehicle forms an important part of the vineyard’s centralised electric power management system.

COST SAVINGS

According to Joseph, his old petrol ride-on mower used to consume approximately one litre of petrol per acre, taking a full day to mow approximately 10ac.

In the course of a busy workday, he estimates he might have used 10L of petrol on the ride-on and 3L for a full day’s work with a petrol whipper snipper, totalling 13L of petrol at a cost of about $25.

By comparison, he says recharging electric equivalents for the same work costs approximately $1.80, based on sacrificed rebate tariff returns.

“And there are all the savings in time – we don’t have to go to the petrol station to get petrol.”

Ballycroft is at the vanguard of a new wave of electrification of domestic and agricultural outdoor power equipment, with cost savings already manifest in day-to-day operations.

Solar-generated power is free, controllable, and data-rich to ensure easy monitoring. Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars.
Solar-generated power is free, controllable, and data-rich to ensure easy monitoring.

V2G connectivity, furthermore, serves a social function in helping to smooth out peaks and troughs in community-wide energy usage, relieving pressure from the grid by transforming electric vehicles into mini powerplants.

Sunny times are indeed ahead for small operators choosing to take the plunge and invest in solar technologies.