GrapeTech Is Crushing It

Oct 8, 2021

Southwestern French wine growers were hit hard this year with devastating frosts and blistering heat. But for Pierre Escudie, his Marselan, Grenache Gris, and Chardonnay grapes fared better than his neighbors’ thanks to the rows of solar panels above the vines protecting the plants.

Throwing shade: The panels insulate the ground below them by around 1.1-ish degrees Fahrenheit. They rotate to allow more/less light to hit the vines depending on the day.

The solar panels at the vineyard generate enough energy to power 650 homes in the area, even though 15-20% of the power production is sacrificed for crop quality.

It’s a win-win for crops that can’t take the heat and the solar panels that work better with the cooler microclimate provided by the crop underneath. Many companies in Europe are developing similar solar panel systems to cover a variety of crops.

More grape tech: Maybe the solar panels can power the new robo-pickers that Italian winemakers are embracing amid pandemic-induced labor shortages.

With borders shuttered by COVID travel restrictions, Italian winemakers haven’t been able to hire the (mostly Eastern European and North African) workers who typically fill their vineyards during harvest season. The use of harvesting machines spiked 20% this year among a group of winemakers in the central Italian region.

Some were able to cut a typical 18-day harvest down to just 10. Wine not make the switch?