A wastewater treatment solution used by big-name Sonoma County breweries is spilling over into the Napa wine industry, with the prospect of reducing the shipment of wastewater out of county for treatment.
Rombauer Vineyards in St. Helena will be the first Napa winery to adopt the EcoVolt, a bioelectric wastewater system from Cambrian Innovation. The Boston-based company announced the partnership Tuesday. Already sporting a roster of brewery clients including Lagunitas, Bear Republic and Russian River, the company’s pairing with Rombauer may be the first of many with Napa wine producers.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of wineries,” said Baji Gobburi, vice president of sales at Cambrian Innovation, in a phone interview last week.
Housed in a 53-foot long container, the EcoVolt’s anaerobic system not only treats wastewater, but also makes use of electricity-generating microbes to convert the pollutants in brewery and winery wastewater into electricity and biogas. The company places the system’s output at more than 260,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. For scale, the average U.S. residence used less than 11,000 kWh in 2015.
“What we’ve effectively done is taken a reaction-based, biology-based system and put it in a box,” Gobburi explained. “What we do is actually creating energy.”
Rombauer’s forthcoming installation of the system is being touted as allowing the winery to not only treat all of its wastewater onsite, but to also eliminate the need for holding and hauling any of its wastewater. The latter has been a growing concern for the county in recent years, as a steady stream of new wineries has put more trucks on the road hauling winery wastewater out of the county and down to the East Bay.
As is the case with many wineries, Rombauer currently ships wastewater during the three-month harvest season 40 miles via truck to the East Bay Municipal Utility District. A 2014 internal review of the Napa Sanitation District estimated six to seven truckloads of wastewater are shipped daily from Napa wineries to East Bay MUD.
The East Bay plant takes in the majority of North Bay wineries’ wastewater, offering not only economical rates, but a technological capability that Napa Sanitation lacks, the report noted.
“Water is the most precious resource a winery has, so integrating Cambrian’s EcoVolt solution into our production plans is core to our strategy as we work to become more water efficient in every aspect of the business,” said Richie Allen, Rombauer’s viticulture and winemaking director, in a statement issued Tuesday.
Rombauer declined to provide the terms of the deal, but a spokesperson for Cambrian gave two to three years as the time frame for its clients to see a return on investment. The EcoVolt system is slated for installation at Rombauer early next year.
Cambrian Innovation Founder and CEO Matthew Silver said in Tuesday’s release, “Managing vineyards and making wine requires sustainable and economical water management, and Napa Valley and its award-winning wine producers, like Rombauer, are on the cutting edge.”