A local winery is now producing a new commodity — electricity.
Although The Winery at Bull Run is steeped in history, winery president Jon Hickox recently added a modern element to one of the buildings - a solar roof. Unlike traditional solar panels, the solar shingles are installed in place of regular roof shingles. Hickox said this contributed to his willingness to install them, because it wouldn’t detract from the historic farmhouse feel of the winery, which is located adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
“This is actually getting the roof to do work. Otherwise it’s just wasted space,” he said.
Hickox, who also owns a home remodeling business, installed the solar shingles on the roof of a new storage barn that also uses reclaimed barn wood for the sides and will be decorated with a wine-themed mural in the style of old painted billboards.
The mural will draw attention to the outbuilding, Hickox said, and then he hopes that will cause people to notice the solar roof.
He plans to install a plaque explaining the roof and how it works, “just to make people think for a minute,” he said.
Hickox also plans to produce a vintage made exclusively with the solar energy, starting with this fall’s grape harvest, to further raise awareness of his efforts and of the solar roof technology.
Using environment-friendly design and energy-saving technology is good for business in 2013, Hickox said.
“It displays corporate responsibility. It’s also about being cutting-edge and preserving energy,” he said.
Installing a solar roof costs two to three times as much as a regular roof, Hickox said, but you can get a federal tax credit for one-third of the cost, and you will be saving money on your electricity bill, he said.
The 200-square-foot solar roof at the winery will produce an average of 2,500 kilowatt hours, equivalent to about one quarter of what an average household uses. While the winery operations do use more energy than a typical household, Hickox said he designed the main building that houses the wine cellar and tasting room to minimize energy use.
Less than a week after installing the solar roof, Hickox said he is already thinking differently about his utility bill.
“It makes you more conscious of energy usage,” he said. “You’re investing money but you’re also investing mentally.”
Hickox estimates that it will take about eight to 10 years before the value of the energy saved equals the amount he invested in the solar roof.