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How smoky skies affect solar collection and grapevines in the Okanagan

The lights have been dimmed on the Okanagan's solar industry for part of this summer as smoky skies have had an effect on solar power generation.
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August 21, 2018 - 9:00 PM

PENTICTON - Wildfire smoke is clouding efforts to turn sunlight into electricity, but the valley’s wine industry doesn’t seem to be affected as yet.

An Okanagan solar energy contractor says the smoky skies are having a big impact on the solar energy industry.

Landon Aldridge, who owns Terratek Energy in Penticton, says solar energy systems are collecting around 50 per cent less solar energy than they normally would at this time of year.

“This past weekend was terrible, but overall there has been a drop off lately,” Aldridge says. “Hopefully this doesn’t become the norm."

Aldridge has access to energy data from his various installations throughout the Okanagan including two Penticton schools and several commercial locations in Kelowna.

“I’ve looked at peak production compared to what it should be, and its down, averaging 50 per cent through last week. My own solar system is down 50 per cent,” he says.

Aldridge noted the past two years at least have produced below average results in August, due to smoke from wildfires.

“Last year was pretty terrible. I don’t know what to say, except I hope it’s not a sign of the times,” he says.

According to Terratek Energy’s website, the company has installed 20 per cent of the province’s home and commercial solar systems throughout the Okanagan and B.C. Southern Interior, northern B.C., Vancouver and and Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Summerland’s Dirty Laundry Vineyard’s Winemaker Mason Spink says smoke taint will be determined by individual vineyards closer to harvest.

He says in spite of the recent heavily smoky skies, it doesn’t appear smoke has had any affect on the crop. Most of the adverse effects of smoke can be handled in the winery or through vineyard practises prior to harvest, Spink says.

He says after after a wet start to to the growing season, things have moved pretty quickly through the season, the result being projections for a harvest around the normal time.

“Of course, there’s the new normal and old normal, it’s hard to say which is which. The last two years we’ve harvested early, and that seems to be the trend,” he says.

Spink says he hasn’t seen any adverse affects of lessened sunlight on the vines as yet.

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