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Solar Power

February 14, 2005, Rutherford, CA - Organic and sustainable farming pioneer Long Meadow Ranch has completed installation of a combined 60-kilowatt solar power system which will eliminate 100 percent of its annual electricity costs. "We are truly committed to operating in a sustainable fashion," said owner Ted Hall. "This system will completely meet our commercial and residential power needs. In fact, we expect to be a modest net contributor to the local grid. Our clean production will avoid nearly 70 tons annually of carbon monoxide from a natural gas power plant."

Prato Lungo50 kilowatt Long Meadow Ranch commercial system.

The 50-kilowatt commercial system employs a 5,100 square foot solar panel array. The array is completely hidden from view in a location about half a mile from the main winery building and provides electricity for all winery and olive oil operations, administrative functions, shops, barns, water systems, and the foreman's residence.

An additional separate 10-kilowatt solar system was installed to provide 100 percent power for the Ranch's main residence. It, too, is hidden from all views.

Prato Lungo10 kilowatt Long Meadow Ranch residential system.

Both systems, installed by Sun Power Geothermal Energy, were designed to function within California's net metering regulations which means the public utility must credit renewable energy producers for the electricity produced and sent out to the grid. Solar energy not used by the Ranch is automatically sent out to the utility grid, effectively causing the electric meter to run backward. Long Meadow earns credits for the electricity they produce and is able to tap into those credits at night and during cloudy days.

Working closely with owner Ted Hall and CFO Les Denend at Long Meadow Ranch, Sun Power crafted a feasibility study utilizing prior usage, patterns of usage, cost of installation and materials, and anticipated future use to determine the system appropriate for their needs. Considering public utility rates vary during different times of the day depending on anticipated demand, previous patterns of usage allowed Sun Power to create a "most profitable" rate schedule for LMR.

The schedule allows LMR to schedule certain electricity usage at a time when the PG&E power is least expensive, thereby allowing LMR-generated power to return to the PG&E grid when it is most expensive (for example, during summer afternoons), generating the most credits for LMR. "We're doing a kind of 'power arbitrage' by sending high priced electricity to PG&E at peak demand times and using power for our own operations during off-peak periods," said CFO Denend.

LMR owner Ted Hall said, "This renewable source of energy - and ultimate profit center - is the latest addition to underscore our sustainable philosophy at the ranch. Going to 100 percent solar power is consistent with other green practices we have adopted like 100 percent use of biodiesel fuel in our tractors, propane-powered "clean" vineyard heaters (instead of smudge pots) for frost control, and propane torch scorching for in-row vineyard weed control."

The total installed cost of the combined photovoltaic system was nearly $545,000. Importantly, the installation was eligible for federal and state subsidies and rebates, bringing the net cost down to less than half of the gross cost. Based on prior usage, the energy cost savings over the warranted life span of the solar panels will total $781,000. "However, I am confident that we will save more than $1 million before this system needs to be replaced," concluded Hall.