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Another reason to love South Australian wines


South Australia’s wine industry is known for some of the best wines in the world and now we can celebrate its environmental achievements as well.

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South Australian-based wineries Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Wirra Wirra and Kay Brothers have all received awards from the SA Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) for their commitment to greater energy efficiency.

Pernod Ricard has cut winery CO2 emissions by more than 8,500 tonnes per year (equivalent to the output of 1,800 passenger vehicles), Wirra Wirra has made big energy savings from its investment in an efficient refrigeration plant, while Kay Brothers now gets 70% of its energy from rooftop solar panels and has been a leader in introducing “lean production” strategies.

The wineries all worked with Green Industries SA (formerly Zero Waste) on initiatives to improve their energy efficiency and environmental impact, as part of GISA’s Industry Program. A series of short videos have been released by the agency to highlight how these and other wineries have made measurable improvements in everything from land and biodiversity to recycling.

Pernod Ricard, which produces brands such as Jacob’s Creek at its Rowland Flat and Richmond Grove wineries in the Barossa Valley, has set itself ambitious targets to reduce energy use by 20% and carbon emissions by 30% during the current decade.

“A number of years ago the company embarked on a lean journey and recognised that the identification and removal of waste, in this case energy/CO2, is not just good for the environment it is also good business,” said Global Operations Director Brett McKinnon. “These projects were identified as leading examples of where the business could reduce its consumption of energy and the subsequent impact on the environment.”

Success is the sum of many parts. For example, consolidating the load from two refrigeration plants reduced the electricity required to run the plant by 27%, using new direct-drive harvesters reduced diesel consumption during the 2015 harvest by 30%, and using lightweight bottles for six million cases of wine reduced CO2 emissions by 7500 tonnes, even before transport was taken into account.

Changes were even made to the winemaking process. Moving to bulk fermentation of sparkling wine has saved energy from glass production, transport, storage refrigeration and wine processing.

The company also has just committed to a major investment in a 1.34 MW solar array – arguably the largest private installation in South Australia – to provide energy for its Barossa wineries.

Both Wirra Wirra and Kay Brothers are doing equally impressive things in McLaren Vale.

Wirra Wirra, which is perhaps best known for its Church Block red, was acknowledged by SAWIA last year for a project that led to a 60% reduction in its CO2 emissions – bringing annual savings of nearly $50,000. In the first year after upgrading its refrigeration plant and buying a solar system, the winery halved its ratio of electricity consumed to tonnes of grape crushed.

“We wanted to reduce our reliance on the regional power grid through solar and reduce the high risk of a major tank cooling breakdown during vintage, leaving us unable to produce wine, through the new refrigeration plant,” said Environmental Coordinator Emmanuelle Walton. “We also were willing to invest to improve our energy efficiency and reduce both direct and indirect carbon emissions.”

Wirra Wirra decided to spend more to get the greatest efficiency possible from its new refrigeration plant. It is so efficient, in fact, that there are not necessarily any advantages in running it at night.

Kay Brothers was a renewable energy pioneer in McLaren Vale, installing a wind turbine as far back as the mid-1900s. More recently, it installed the 120-panel, 30kW solar panel system that is now making a major contribution to its sustainable use of electricity.

This year’s SAWIA environmental leadership award recognised the company’s diverse environmental program, which includes resource and production efficiency, native habitat restoration and the use of only recycled water in vineyards.

The driver was an Efficient Wineries Program co-ordinated by SAWIA, Green Industries SA and Adelaide-based business productivity specialists 2XE which helped Kay Brothers adopt a “lean production” approach.

A range of projects jointly developed by management and staff are estimated by external consultants to have saved about 1,191 litres of wasted wine, 156 employee hours, 5.5MWh of electricity and 15,000 litres of water. This totals a theoretical value of $4585 a year.

“We see lean production as an umbrella term to cover a whole lot of things such as reducing waste, working more efficiently and putting everything in its place,” said general manager Steve Todd. “It’s helped us create a whole new culture.”

Solstice Media has partnered with the South Australian Government to provide information about the transition to a low-carbon economy. Read more stories like this here.

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