By Deanna Contreras
SONOMA — PG&E is helping both boutique wineries with small production, and large wine producers, “crush” the harvest season by saving on energy costs. The “Crush” season typically starts in August and continues into the fall as grapes are processed and fermented into wine. PG&E is offering free energy audits, cash incentives and customized programs during what can typically be an energy intensive time for wineries.
Over the past three years, on average, PG&E’s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas — enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.
“To enable other businesses during a crucial time of year for them is what a long-standing partnership with PG&E is all about,” said Dave Canny, senior manager for PG&E’s North Bay and Sonoma divisions. “Whether its incentives that help facilitate the wine-making process or our laser focus on safety and reliability improvements to the grid, we want to help them meet their business targets.”
Rack & Riddle, an Alexander Valley family-owned company, is working with PG&E on a top-to-bottom energy audit that includes evaluating equipment for energy efficiency, determining whether purchasing new equipment is worth the cost savings and consulting on the expansion of processing operations.
“Crush is an important time of year for us when we work around the clock to start the wine-making process and this year the number of tons that we’re crushing went up considerably — more than 80 percent,” said Bruce Lundquist, owner of Rack & Riddle.
“Because of the increase in product demand, we look to PG&E as a business partner to analyze whether we’re being as energy efficient as possible while looking ahead to determine if current cooling equipment needs to be replaced to meet future facility expansion,” he added.
Jackson Family Wines, headquartered in Sonoma County, has more than a dozen wineries in the North Bay that PG&E has been working with on several energy efficiency projects, including refrigeration upgrades and lighting improvement — all run through the WIES program.
“The Jackson family is focused on making the highest quality wine in the most responsible manner, with an eye on preserving our agricultural heritage for future generations,” said Julien Gervreau, director of sustainability at Jackson Family Wines.
Estimated savings on these energy efficiency programs have totaled more than $8 million for the family-owned and operated wine company since 2008. A recent lighting retrofit at its flagship winery, Kendall-Jackson in Fulton, Calif., converted hundreds of lights to LEDs. PG&E rebates helped offset about 20 percent of the project costs.
“We’ve recognized for a long time that there is a significant energy impact associated with the winemaking and grape growing processes,” said Gervreau. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize that impact and the associated emissions from our activities, and that includes working with like-minded companies such as PG&E.”
PG&E also announced upgrades in infrastructure so customers in wine-growing territories throughout Northern California can expect reliable energy.
Reliability improvements that have directly impacted service during this crucial time of year include: replacing 1,200 feet of power line along Highway 12 through Sonoma and installing new equipment throughout Sonoma to minimize outages; upgrading power poles and installing self-healing grid technology in Napa and upgrading electrical equipment in communities in the Dry Creek Valley.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.