At the Westport Winery on the Washington state coast, the buzz isn’t only about the wine—it’s about the watts. With award-winning wine and a replica of the Westport Lighthouse incorporated into its structure, the winery already stood out. But now it has something else to boast about: a PV installation that does double-duty. A true building-integrated solution, the entire array acts as the roof for Westport’s outdoor seating area, providing guests with shelter to enjoy their wine and meals.
In a part of the state with up to 190 days of rainfall each year, the choice of modules and the array’s design were important. “The double-glass construction of these Silicon Energy modules is well-suited to this type of installation. Light can pass through them, providing illumination to the seating area below,” says Scott Hollis of Global Green Energy. The PV modules are offset horizontally, with each one sitting slightly underneath the one above it. The offset modules shed rain and keep the seating area dry. The design creates structural functionality from a PV installation with the modules providing the roofing material. Compared to a traditional roof-mounted system, the canopy-mounted modules also have more airflow around them, which can help keep the array cooler (and performance higher) on hot, sunny days.
“Working with a professional building engineer, we designed the headers and columns to support the load of the PV modules and the pre-engineered trusses,” says Hollis.
Form and function were equally important to Blain Roberts, the winery owner: He wanted an array that would complement the architecture and also make good financial sense. “We weren’t going to do this unless we could amortize the cost—we didn’t want to make a bad business decision.” Roberts estimates that the PV array will pay for itself in as little as four years and continue to reduce the winery’s electricity bill for many years after that. “That, combined with the tax benefits, makes the numbers work,” he explains.
Looking up through the underside of the solar awning with sunlight breaking through the checkerboard pattern, he smiles. “It makes for a really interesting space,” he says. When building functionality and aesthetics combine to create a usable structure that actually pays you back, the result is good news for any business owner—but for Roberts, it’s sweeter than the wine.