Grape Expectations

Historic Hopewell Vineyards grows wine grapes in Chester County


By Emily Kovach

Nestled in a patch of verdant farmland in Oxford, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles southeast of Lancaster), sits Historic Hopewell Vineyards, a 2-acre vineyard run by Karen and Anthony Mangus. From the rich, well-drained Brandywine Valley soil, they grow seven varieties of wine grapes including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. They once counted a number of Pennsylvania wineries among their customers, but last year Karen and Anthony decided to exclusively partner with Chaddsford Winery for their entire grape production for at least the next three years. Grid enjoyed the chance to chat with Karen Mangus to learn more about the operation.

Tell us about Hopewell Historic Vineyards’ beginning. Did you have a background
in farming?

KM: We are “first generation” farmers. Through personal research, numerous classes and thousands of hours of interaction with other growers, we finally developed the confidence to prepare and plant our first 2 acres in 2003.

Before that, we were living in Northern Virginia, and we’d venture to wine events and vineyards, locally and as far as South America. The more we interacted with other growers and winery people, the stronger our passion became to do something similar. It took a decade of planning, research and education before moving to Chester County in 1999 with the primary purpose of planting a vineyard.

What drove your decision to just be a vineyard and not a full winery?
KM: Initially, our intent was to gain experience by growing grapes for several years, and then progress to a full-blown winery operation. We even had a well-developed business plan and private investors and a commercial bank on board. The economic “correction” of 2008 made us apprehensive, and we decided to concentrate solely on producing the highest quality vinifera [wine grapes] possible in our location.

What are some challenges you face growing wine grapes in Chester County?
KM: Our climate is very similar to the Burgundy region of France, where you can produce consistently high quality grapes and wine, but the higher level of moisture makes things more difficult. We have to deal with issues like weed control, fungus and mildew and unpredictable weather. These are not insurmountable, but require a considerable investment in technology and specialized machinery. 

We’re excited to learn about your solar program. Do lots of vineyards do this?
KM: In 2009, we installed our solar electric generating system: 132 solar panels directly on the north side of the vine rows, which generates over 40 kilowatts of clean energy and reduces carbon emissions by more than 20 tons per year.

There are several vineyards with solar generation systems; however, ours is one of the largest in the area. Part of our philosophy here at Historic Hopewell is to value and conserve our environment, and clean, renewable energy is a logical extension of that philosophy.

Solar in the City: Customer-backed, campus-based energy system a first in Philadelphia

Temple University's solar panels can be seen by approximately 26,000 regional rail riders.Although the newly installed solar panels are mounted three stories up on Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall, about 26,000 regional rail riders see them daily as they pass through the Temple University Station. The visibility is what the university is hoping will draw attention to the project, so more people see solar energy as viable. 

Although the newly installed solar panels are mounted three stories up on Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall, about 26,000 regional rail riders see them daily as they pass through the Temple University Station. The visibility is what the university is hoping will draw attention to the project, so more people see solar energy as viable. 

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Solar, DIY: Two Philadelphia handy men take solar into their own hands

story by Bernard BrownYou would think Greg Scott was talking about building bookshelves from a box, not installing a solar array on his roof. “Once you know how to build stuff for a reason, you sort of figure out how to build things,” he explains. Scott, together with his do-it-yourself partner Tom Weissert, thinks we can do it, too.

Scott and Weissert have installed both a solar hot water system, which heats water with solar warmth, and a photovoltaic (PV) array, which converts sunlight into electricity, on Weissert’s house in Narberth, and they are close to installing another PV system at Scott’s house in West Philly.

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Grid Alive: The April issue comes to the stage this Thursday

The second Grid Alive is happening this Thursday night and we couldn’t be more excited to hit the stage again. Like before, there will be great guests, live music and local brews, but expect a couple surprises too.

Your hosts Alex Mulcahy, Grid publisher, and Nic Esposito, Philly urban farmer and novelist will be talking with Ron Celentano, a solar PV industry consultant who has found himself deeply involved in the legislative discussion that could kill Pennsylvania’s solar industry. Following him will be Lauren Mandel, a rooftop agriculture specialist with Roofmeadow, who will discuss the possibilities for bringing rooftop agriculture to Philly. We’ll close out the night with a performance by musician Johnny Miles. There will be local beer, cheese and wine from Rolling Barrel, and we’re launching the action table, where we will be featuring The Energy Co-op.

Tickets are on sale now for $5 and available at the door. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 22 at the Trinity Memorial Church (22nd and Spruce Sts.), doors open at 5:30 p.m., show starts at 6:15 p.m. 

Book Smart

The city releases its guidebook for solar projects

In June, the city debuted its highly anticipated Guidebook for Solar Photovoltaic Projects in Philadelphia, an element of Philadelphia’s participation in the Department of Energy’s Solar American Cities Partnership.

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Nick Pine pushes solar power that goes beyond panels
by Lee Stabert

"Solar power” conjures images of high-tech, high-priced panels and carefully constructed rigs, but, as Nick Pine explains, the concept is actually much simpler—harnessing the sun’s heat can be cheap and easy, and an excellent replacement for fossil fuels.

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News: The Price is Right

Urban Eco Electric energizes the Philadelphia solar market with free installation and affordable leasing options

Many homeowners want solar energy, but far too few can afford the upfront costs. How can this be overcome? One solution is leasing. The most prominent example of a successful leasing company is California-based SolarCity, which was partially funded by Elon Musk, PayPal founder and CEO of Tesla Motors. Philadelphia now has its own solar leasing contender: Urban Eco Electric.
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The Sun Also Rises

Three Decades later, Jon Costanza returns to his place in the sun
by Samantha Drake

These days, when Jon Costanza talks to groups about the benefits of solar power, he starts off with his ponytail tucked up out of sight. His audiences, consisting of many people dressed in business suits, often look far more conservative than those he addressed decades ago. Back then, audiences looked a lot more like him, Costanza likes to point out as he lets his ponytail down.
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Sun Grab

State rebates create opportunities for solar installations--finally!
by Natasha Chart

Thinking about installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on your home or commercial building this year? “There will never be a better time to do it,” says Andrew Kleeman, the managing partner at Eos Energy Solutions.
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Sun City

Alternative energy entrepreneur Mike McKinley talks about what solar can do for Philly

by Dana Henry

Mike Mckinley was a cognitive neuroscientist working for Pfizer in southern California when the lights went out. Utility spikes caused by the deregulations of Enron and Reliant Energy (the same will happen with PECO in 2010) had led to a series of rolling blackouts better known as the California Electricity Crisis of 2000. When the lights came back on, Mike had electric bills of over $300 a month for a 750 square foot apartment. He also had a new outlook. The Philadelphia native and graduate of Central High School decided it was time for a career change. He commuted to New York and went back to school for solar technology.

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