Jeni Port vists Australia’s premier green winery driven by wind power
Excerpt from article featured – Contrary to common belief and Hollywood movies, wind turbines are largely silent. It’s the wind that makes all the racket. At Upton Hill, a 530 metre highpoint in the Strathbogie Ranges, gusts of Antarctic air swirl and play over the hillside and down, away from the grassy crown around the vines of Elgo Estate. Blowing the clouds away, rattling the gums and burning the eyes, the wind blocks out any possible sound from the giant rotors of the vineyard’s 30 metre wine turbine as they turn over but the rhythmic sweep is quietly mesmerising, each huge arc an elegant movement of natural force . . . and energy. Everything on Elgo Estate – the 600 tonne winery and the cellar door – is fuelled by electricity harnessed from the wind via the turbine. It’s being hailed as a first for an Australian winery, a self-sustaining means of power – as long as the wind blows – that can also send excess electricity back into the main power grid. “We can help power some of the district,” says co-owner, general manager and viticulturist Grant Taresch. “It’s a good feeling.” Even more comforting is knowing that the turbine, which produces 1000 kilowatts of power a day (on average), saves more than 400 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually. But that’s just one part of the vineyard’s green initiatives which include waste water recycling, tree plantings and composting using grape skins and winery waste. If this small-ish, largely unknown Victorian winery can power itself and become largely self-sustainable what of larger wineries? Taresch hopes his pioneering work will become a blueprint for others.
Effluent ponds – two megalitre dams – deconstruct winery waste and grape skins are re-cycled. In the end, 100 per cent winery waste is put back into the vineyard. It’s also nice to see sheep between the vines mowing down weeds instead of a tractor. A bumpy ride around the hilly hills and dales of Elgo Estate reveals considerable native tree and grass plantings that have taken place in the last 10 years with 10,000 trees (and there’s more to come) helping reclaim the land. Creek-beds re-planted and fenced off to sheep are now wildlife corridors for more indigenous animals. While some of this doesn’t have that much impact on the actual quality of the wines produced at Elgo Estate, environmentally the Tareschs’ efforts are quite substantial . The average household adds about 12 to 14 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year but at Elgo Estate they are saving one tonne per day. Now, that sounds pretty close to what some might call carbon negative.