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Michigan winery sets bar high for energy standards

TRAVERSE CITY, MI -- Last, a Michigan winery made a pivotal move in the future of their business.

Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn, overlooking beautiful Grand Traverse Bay in the upper west corner of the Lower Peninsula, has installed a new 148.5 kW solar array. The new addition will offset approximately 40% of the winery's energy needs, saving more than $25,000 annually.

The winery hosted over 50 guests including U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, personnel from the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD), Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Farm Energy Program, MSU, and representatives of agribusiness, the local Chamber of Commerce and tourism board, and media on May 29 to celebrate the completion and usage of the new equipment.

Marie-Chantal Dalese, President and CEO of Chateau Chantal, greeted guests at the event. "We've been harvesting grapes for 29 years," said Dalese. "At this point, we're excited to diversify by harvesting the sun's energy with the largest solar array currently at a Michigan winery.

"Installing a large scale solar array is one more way we can reflect our commitment to a healthy environment.Our vineyard has been MAEAP-certified for 8 years and we ceased application of chemical fertilizers in our vineyard 10 years ago," added Dalese. "We've been very conscientious of our natural beauty and understand that it is a major reason people vacation in our area.The stationary solar array has been positioned so that these stunning natural views are not affected."

Chateau Chantal was been awarded a MEDC Pure Michigan Business Connect grant, which provides matching funds up to $50,000 to companies in need of addressing technology gaps with innovative resources or solutions from another Michigan-based company.Further financing may come from a USDA REAP grant that could cover up to 25% of the project costs.

The new solar array was designed, engineered and installed by Harvest Energy Solutions, a Midwest renewable energy company that specializes in agribusiness, farm and rural residential solar installations.

Harvest Energy Solutions leverages more than 100 years of collective commercial equipment installation experience with a renewed focus on solar photovoltaic (PV) and other renewable system designs and installations.

Chris Curry, President of Harvest Energy Solutions, was also a speaker at the gathering. "You can't help but marvel at this really magical piece of land here. There's a tremendous amount of untapped value in energy and we believe in partnering with our agribusiness customers to promote lower energy costs and energy independence so they can focus on what's important, which is feeding America."

Curry went on to mention that the solar array installed at Chateau Chantal consists almost entirely of parts made in Michigan, including the racking and clips manufactured by Harvest Energy Solutions and the solar panels assembled in Saginaw, MI. There are no moving parts, so the system is virtually maintenance-free.

"We commend Marie for her visionary thinking by incorporating a Harvest Energy Solutions solar PV system into Chateau Chantal's operation," continued Curry. "She's proven to be the most forward-thinking winery owners in the state, and will enjoy the benefits of this system for decades to come."

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow remarked on what this installment could mean for all of the state of Michigan. "This is an opportunity for us to do a number of different things, because this is 'Michigan-made…' Every single one of those component parts is a job, so it brings together our strengths in Michigan, which is manufacturing and technology, along with the ability to have clean energy and protect our planet. And in this case, we add to that the fact that we are adding value to a wonderful place that's providing superior wine."

Following the introductory remarks, the crowd went out to the patio to view the solar array. Senator Stabenow was then joined on stage with Dalese and Curry for the "power-up" ceremony, which symbolized the activation of the new solar installation.