Hunting for sustainability

Gwen Chamberlain
Art Hunt talks about sustainable and renewable measures being taken at Hunt Country Vineyards, as his daughter, Suzanne, wife, Joyce, son Jon and daughter-in-law, Caroline listen.

The nearby town of Italy may be in the midst of a conflict over industrial wind farms, but at Hunt Country Vineyards on Italy Hill Road, wind energy may be a way to make the farm and winery more efficient.

Last week, Art and Joyce Hunt and their family welcomed hundreds of guests at the winery’s annual harvest festival and a special dedication event for the newly installed Windspire vertical axis wind turbine and other energy conservation measures.

“It (the turbine) is not meant to be a major solution, but it’s a first step,” explained Art Hunt, adding,

“We’ll know within a year or two if wind energy is feasible for us.”

The 30 foot tall Windspire wind turbine features a vertical axis design and produces 1.2 kW of power. Built by Mariah Power in Michigan, the turbine produces 110 volt 60 cycle current directly into the residential grid.

As one of the first Windspire models in operation in New York State, it will be used to demonstrate its unique advanced design.

The Hunts’ turbine will only provide a portion of the electricity needed to power the farm, winery and their family home. The next generation of the turbine will produce enough electricity to power a typical home.

Suzanne Hunt, Art and Joyce’s daughter, whose company, Hunt Green LLC provides consultation regarding energy, agriculture, transportation and the environment, said the steps being taken by the winery are “like Back to the Future.” She reminded the group gathered on Oct. 9 that for centuries farms have harnessed wind power.

Noting that the Hunt family has had farm operations on the property for seven generations, she said the goal is “taking care of the land and making sure it’s here for seven more generations.”

Art Hunt told guests at the Oct. 9 reception that making the decision to actively seek out sustainable agriculture measures was the right step for the family business.

“We want to be one of the leaders,” he explained.

The Windspire itself is the product of recycling. Mariah Power is based in a refurbished Michigan auto parts plant employing former autoworkers using American materials.

Art Hunt says the turbine is so quiet that one needs to stand next to it to hear any sound at all, in contrast to reports coming from neighbors of giant industrial wind turbines near Naples.

Art Hunt serves on a committee researching the possibility of industrial wind farm development in the town of Jerusalem. Two neighboring towns — Italy in Yates County and Prattsburgh in Steuben County — are addressing applications from wind farm developers.

Other measures taken at the winery have resulted in significant savings, according to Jonathan Hunt, director of wine making.

He says the heavy insulation and more efficient use of space has resulted in a reduction of 27 percent of the entire farm’s energy costs over the last 12 months. In the past four months, the costs have been reduced by 38 percent over the same four month period last year.

A new addition to the winery has enabled all the wine production to be housed in one building, creating increased efficiency and better conservation along with improved quality control, says Johnathan. The building features heavy insulation, capability for in-floor heating, automated tank cooling and energy efficient lighting.

Art Hunt expects the future of renewable energy will be in solar power, which he thinks will be easily adapted for typical farm and residential use within five years.

Other measures that are taken at the winery include composting the stems and seeds from the grape pressing operation and using the compost in the vineyards.

“So the only thing we take from the vineyard is the juice,” explains Suzanne Hunt.

For more about Hunt Country Vineyards, visit www.HuntWines.com.

For more about the Windspire, visit www.MariahPower.com.