Can a Napa winery run on a generator, not PG&E, forever?

HT/care5health, who also posed the following questions.

I’m not a Californian, and this raises questions.
1. The stated reason for the generator is the high cost of running power lines. Is the cost of the power to be delivered just as large a concern?
2. How competitive is a private generator with PG&E rates in Napa?
3. Is California power so expensive that people will begin considering diesel self-generation?

From The Napa Valley Register

 

582a47598073c.imageA winery inside caves in hills above Soda Canyon that has generated controversy is facing questions about how it generates electricity.

The Caves at Soda Canyon relies on a generator, not Pacific Gas & Electric, for power. It recently learned that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District won’t give a permit for the existing generator and that it needs a newer, larger model, a county report said.

This news prompted the Napa County Board of Supervisors to delay a Tuesday appeals hearing on a proposed The Caves at Soda Canyon expansion until Dec. 5. That will give the county time to do an environmental review for the replacement generator.

Questions over the generator at The Caves at Soda Canyon have arisen before. The topic came up at the April 19 county Planning Commission meeting.

“Is it OK to run a winery on a generator forever?” Planning Commissioner Joelle Gallagher asked.

“In our county code, we do not have a requirement that says, ‘Thou shall be hooked up to PG&E,’” county Supervising Planner Charlene Gallina replied.

The Caves at Soda Canyon winery is located underground at 2275 Soda Canyon Road. The winery ran into trouble after building without county permission a cave portal leading to a patio tasting area with views of the Napa Valley, as well as opening other outdoor tasting areas.

A request for after-the-fact approvals led to Planning Commission hearings in 2015 and 2017. The Planning Commission in April finally approved the cave portal and outdoor tasting areas, as well as a request to double maximum wine production from 30,000 gallons annually to 60,000 gallons annually.

That prompted neighbor Steven Stull to appeal the case to the Board of Supervisors. Among other things, Stull claims using a generator as a permanent power source violates county codes and policies.

Several Planning Commissioners at the April 19th meeting expressed curiosity about the generator.

“Can you talk us through the power issue just briefly, the generator versus access to PG&E and how that came about?” Planning Commission Chairwoman Jeri Gill asked.

“It’s a long story,” said attorney Scott Greenwood-Meinert, who represents the winery.

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That story begins in 2006, when the Planning Commission originally approved the winery. Commissioner Terry Scott, the only current commissioner who participated in that decision, recalled the generator as being a temporary measure pending a PG&E hookup.

Greenwood-Meinert said the winery has tried over the years to bring PG&E power to the location. PG&E required an easement across a neighbor’s property and the neighbor wouldn’t grant it unless the power line was underground.

“That undergrounding cost north of a million dollars,” Greenwood-Meinert said. “So that’s cost prohibitive at this point.”

The Planning Commission approved the requested winery changes by a 3-1 vote, though several commissioners voiced the hope that solar or some other power source will eventually replace the generator.

“I don’t feel like we can ding them for having a generator when there’s no law that says they must hook up to PG&E,” Gill said.

Greenwood-Meinert told commissioners that county staff, to the surprise of everyone, recently concluded that regulation changes made a permit from the air district necessary for the generator. He added that the winery would obtain the permit.

But obtaining the permit didn’t go as smoothly as the winery expected. The generator will be among the issues when the Board of Supervisors resumes the appeals hearing at 9:25 a.m. Dec. 5.

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81 thoughts on “Can a Napa winery run on a generator, not PG&E, forever?

  1. I said a couple of years ago that economics, not science, would eventually determine the outcome of the CAGW / save the world by closing down efficient base load power meme, because the rules about economics are harder to fudge. This looks like such a case – the winery should be free to choose the most economical source of power for its operations. Economics says the more it costs any consumer to connect to and use power from PG&E (or whoever is your local supplier), there comes a point where alternatives are cheaper, and rational consumers will take the cheaper alternative, whether it be solar, diesel, a water wheel, or a moonbeam collector. Hmm – I think they call this a ‘tipping point’, but maybe not the one intended. Good luck to The Caves winery, long may they make one of my favourite beverages, and prosper.

      • Yes, and like grain used for whisky, the grapes can be harvested and stored all year long, before they are used for wine making. /sarc

        What a stupid idea to use an anaerobic digester for a once-in-a-year harvest

      • The tipping point is that solar plus battery would be cheaper.

        Agreed, that would indeed be a tipping point. Let me know when we get there….

      • As long as you’re not downwind eh Griff? Hop Festival this weekend only spoilt by the appaling pong from the brewery waste treatment plant, the worst part is the ‘tart’s boudoir’ perfume they spray to try to disguise it. The brewing smell is wonderful of course, no problem with that.

      • Griff you overlook the environmental disaster that lithium extraction entails—can’t find the link I recently read maybe someone else can locate it. Solar will take up real estate for the grapes.

      • Ya know Griff………..
        When you first started posting here, you use to use cleantechania a lot. That was your first go to link.
        I’ve often thought, since I once was a reader of cleantechania ( however it’s spelled, and I don’t care to give an actual working link) that you, might possibly be more involved in cleantechania than you would ever acknowledge.
        Funny how at that time, when you first started posting here, I had recently taken my name OFF their list because they turned into just a warmist site.
        Maybe you are the master of cleantechania……… viewership down? has been down? I think so.

        ( thinking you can change the mind of various people who read or contribute to this site, is a green dream)
        Aint gonna happen.

      • “The tipping point is that solar plus battery would be cheaper.”

        If you can accept not having power some of the time.

      • What could go wrong with your suggestion? For one, the article states that the winery is inside caves. Perfect location for non-function solar panels. Maybe toss in some tiny windmills to make a complete failure.

      • “The tipping point is that solar plus battery would be cheaper.”

        Making stuff up again, Skanky?

        Have you apologised to Dr. Crockford yet?

        Don’t you think you should?

      • Your comment is based on your knowledge of the facts in this case? What’s the power requirements of this winery? You do know that a winery isn’t a vineyard and caves have little solar energy shining on them. Please state various solar sizing projections and costs. I’m sure you’ve worked it all out.

    • I’ve always argued that the path for technology development is generally through “niche” applications. These are instances when the benefits of the new technology have extra value in unusual circumstances (i.e. the cost of building a long line to connect to the grid.) As/if the new technology works well and as development improves the technology and/or lowers the costs associated with it, the new technology will be appropriate for a broader range of niche applications, over time improvements may lead to it being a serious competitor in a broad range of applications of even overtaking conventional technology.

      We didn’t all have cell phones when they first came out, the extra costs and burdens only made sense for a small set of applications. But the costs decreased as the technology improved spurring growth. Now they threaten landlines.

      Another approach is to decide new technology should be widely deployed, largely ignoring the specifics of where it is applied. For example efforts to support solar during Germany’s Energiewende.

      Where there is an obligation to serve but grid interconnection costs are high It may be smart to subsidize non-grid applications. But that does not mean that subsidized non-grid applications make sense broadly. But over time….?

      • Add “serendipity” to your point.
        Many expensive niche inventions found wider applications much different than their original purpose.
        Products from aerospace technology (Corning ware) are just some examples.
        Who foresaw what uses a CERN scheme to link nodes in order to exchange technical information would turn into today’s WWWeb?
        Close to home, as a manager in a photographic giant, we would have thought insane anyone who said that the new cellular phones, each the size of a shoebox, would destroy our business (and we invented digital cameras!)

    • The decadent environmentalists assume there will always be central power production. So they screw over central power production. There are limits to what the people will take, and more and more people will get off the grid as it suits them.

  2. Don’t Prius and other EV’s run on generators when the batteries are kaput? Google shows lots of articles on using a Prius as an emergency generator… Should not be difficult to get a generator for an entire winery that meets or beats Prius generator standards.

  3. Apparently you can buy a generator whose waste heat heats your house. link It’s called cogeneration. link There’s even a version that uses a turbine and thereby gets around some of the pollutants involved with internal combustion engines. link

    Cogeneration is pretty common for greenhouses, especially in Europe. link

    Cogen is also a winner on the environmental front. Cogen Europe, the European Association for the Promotion of Cogeneration, estimates this technology saves Europe about 200 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

    It’s an environmentally friendly solution that should warm the heart of every California politician.

    • Also very common for fossil fuel plant in Europe -many German coal power plants heat thousands of homes via district heating.

      (Berlin is installing an electric district heating plant for the post coal era)

      • @ Griff

        many German coal power plants heat thousands of homes via district heating.

        Germany, huh?

        Griff, ……. “SURPRISE, SURPRISE”, ……how about New York City?

        The New York City steam system is a district heating system which takes steam produced by steam generating stations and carries it under the streets of Manhattan to heat and cool high rise buildings and businesses.

        The New York Steam Company began providing service in lower Manhattan on March 3, 1882.

        Read more @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_steam_system

      • Leo Smith September 1, 2017 at 2:32 am

        CHP is being phased out in Europe because it competes with renewable energy.

        Do you have a link for that? Are they proposing that European buildings should be heated electrically? That’s truly grindingly stupid … weapons grade stupid.

    • You can buy fuel cell generators that will convert natural gas to energy and the excess heat is used to warm the house in winter. You get a federal government rebate on those up to 30% of the 50K install cost. Some can also use propane, which could get you off the PG&E or in my case SDG&E energy grid all together.

      • We don’t need lot of home heating in CA. Most of the year we would be looking for places to dump all the extra heat, other than our homes.

  4. It should put solar panels on its rooftops and invest in a battery and/or fuel cell.

    It has got to be cheaper than diesel in the long run

    • How long is that “in the long run”? 7, 8, 9 years, by which time all the solar stuff needs replacing (panels and batteries), same as domestic solar, it makes no sense, unless you get the tax payer to foot the bill,

      RS

    • It is all a subsidy game.

      I could fit solar on my holiday home in Spain (which is sunny and thus well suited to solar) for around 25,000 to 30,000 euro.

      Or I could purchase a couple of generators for around 4,000 to 5000 euros and have more than 20,000 euros to spend on fuel.

      I know which one makes more sense, and I sure any financial advisor would advise the substantial benefit that comes from not having to fork out an upfront investment of 25,000 to 30,000 euro.

      I would suggest that a dose of reality would go a long way.

    • Giff, I am sorry to tell you this.
      I have a fully off grid house, in a small community that is off grid. I have battery + solar. I need gas for cooking. Some neighbors use petrol or diesel generators. No one uses digestors or other esoteric stuff.
      In Australia, petrol and diesel is a LOT more expensive than most countries.
      Including all fuel and all capital costs, I estimate my neighbors on generator are paying less than one tenth the cost of my PC correct system.
      I feel sorry for the employees and clients at that winery. It will be forced to stop using fossil fuels. And unless the California State pays for an off grid power supply, The winery WILL go bankrupt. Diesel is cheaper.

      Giff, try it. Go off grid. Do it properly. Please.

      • Griff’s opinion is that he’s a lot more certain of his calculations in his mom’s basement than if he went out and tried to get them right in the flickering twilight – aka DARK AGES class light provided by solar/battery.

        So he better advise you from there.

      • Hilarity never ends with Griff here does it?

        Griff still hasn’t figured out that since the green house gases refract 20% of total warming light from the sun to space,

        the claim they warm the planet, and that more of them can warm it more, is in direct violation of conservation of energy.

        In other words his church’s claims violate the laws of thermodynamics.

        No matter how many bloggers try to claim they don’t because they have a friend that said so.

    • Repeating for you Griff….

      Ej September 1, 2017 at 5:42 am
      Ya know Griff………..
      When you first started posting here, you use to use cleantechania a lot. That was your first go to link.
      I’ve often thought, since I once was a reader of cleantechania ( however it’s spelled, and I don’t care to give an actual working link) that you, might possibly be more involved in cleantechania than you would ever acknowledge.
      Funny how at that time, when you first started posting here, I had recently taken my name OFF their list because they turned into just a warmist site.
      Maybe you are the master of cleantechania……… viewership down? has been down? I think so.

      ( thinking you can change the mind of various people who read or contribute to this site, is a green dream)
      Aint gonna happen.

    • Another statement of faith. If it was cheaper, you wouldn’t have to use government to force people to do it.

    • Solar panels on the roof of a cavern? Inside or out?
      Maybe the winery can erect solar panels to shade its vines.
      Think things trough please.

      When you find yourself in the bottom of a hole…stop digging.

    • It may be cheaper in the long run! However, if the short run – actually BUYING the solar and battery setup – bankrupts the business, the return in the long run is moot, correct?

      • I run off grid with solar and propane genset backup. It ain’t cheaper and there is no pay back in the long run. I do it for the same reason the winery runs a generator, and because I can with just a small house.
        Some time go to a factory. Pick most anyone. Check out the size of the wires/gas line going into it. Do the math. Industry runs on RELIABLE POWER, not wishful thinking.

  5. I don’t see the problem in using a diesel generator since most European grids use diesel back up (STOR) to overcome some of the problems caused by the intermittent non dispatchable nature of renewables.

    This is all very mainstream and no doubt any extra CO2 would be very welcome by the vines.

    I would have thought that the time was fast approaching in some countries in Europe, dome provinces in Canada and States in Australia when diesel generation will be competitive, and of course, it will enjoy the benefit of being reliable, unlike some of the grid problems which appear more and more imminent as greater proportion of non dispatch able and intermittent renewables are being added to the grids.

  6. I think those who have access to natural gas will increasingly opt out of the electrical grid and generate their own power from natural-gas-powered generating systems. This is because our idiot politicians have driven up energy costs and greatly reduced grid reliability with their mania for wind and solar power. These idiots also sold off the transmission and distribution systems that we the public used to own, so that we now have to pay for those services monthly at great expense. Finally, they now allow excessive administration costs to further increase our power bills. Only a bunch of politicians could be that stupid, or that corrupt.

    Here is my post from 2015:

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/04/09/how-to-convince-a-climate-skeptic-hes-wrong/#comment-1902911

    {excerpt]

    My problem with electricity may seem petty, but here it is:

    In my Alberta location, it costs about 5 to 7 cents per kWh to produce electricity, typically from coal or natural gas generating systems.

    However, my household electricity bill is tripled by various distribution and administrative charges. How much does your electricity cost per kWh, all-in at your location, and how do your above numbers work in this case?

    I expect that, in the future, more and more companies and even individuals will opt off the grid and produce their own electricity from natural gas using new-tech generating systems.

    Regards, Allan

    • It sounds good if you can get your hands on cheap gas. But in most countries gas is not particularly cheap.

      • if you can get your hands on cheap gas.

        Well now, iffen you move to the State of West Virginia, US of A ….. and purchase property, including the Mineral Rights, ….. or property whereby the Deed for said stipulates “FREE NG to one dwelling”, ….. then you’ve got your hands on all the cheap NG (gas) you care to use or waste.

        And iffen you purchase yourself an NG powered electrical generator … you should then be “a happy camper”.

        And you could even build yourself a large attached “greenhouse” ….. and heat it with that free NG …… and grow part of your food, …. winter, summer, spring or fall.

    • Richard Verney:

      Perhaps I should have limited my comments to North America, where natural gas wholesales for $3/GJ..

      If Europe starts fracking and it succeeds, prices there will drop too.

      Regards, Allan

  7. Sounds like they need to install a propane fired generator. Is there natural gas available in the immediate area? NatGas fired generator, then. Either way, ditch the diesel and they cut the government naysayers off at the knees. Then they will have to find some other scam to shut the business down.

  8. And what you want to bet the “neighbor” who refuses to allow the power line to cross his property is the same one who keeps filing complaints against the winery?

    • Simple. Go wind – the property is on a ridge. The neighbor should be delighted to have a windmill next to his property.

      • “2hotel9 September 1, 2017 at 11:53 am

        Put a backup motor on so it spins when the wind does not blow, just to piss off the neighbor!”

        Do remind me never to move next to you!
        [Spilt my wine – but with no serious bad effects!] +++ Lots!

        Auto

      • My neighbors love me, and I can assure that if we had a new neighbor such as Steven Stull we would not put up with their crap.

  9. Oh my! My Island’s conundrum in a nut shell. Our central WW facility has been condemned. Our ten mile under water power cable is five years beyond its expected life. We have had to disable one of our stand-by DG sets to remain clean air compliant.

    We thousand retirees and farmers do not produce sufficient high quality waste to feed a mesophilic digester for power production. A thermophilic digester is expensive. We live on 20 sq. miles of fractured limestone in the middle of Lake Michigan.

    Winter is coming and I expect many times our normal snowfall. We ants are scurrying around like mad to the tune of the grasshopper’s fiddle.

    • Not cheap, but microturbines (Capstone makes one as small as 30kW)?
      They have larger capacity units, up to 1000kW, and you can parallel them.
      Runs on any of several gas or liquid fuels including NG, biogas, propane, kerosene, diesel fuel, etc.
      And use the heat for CHP for “waste heat”. Must get cold in Wisconsin winters, eh?
      Even seen them on eBay.

      • Eons ago, I tried starting a “renewable” energy business in Southern California. It was based on the fact that Sou Cal would pay anyone who could do it $20 per ton to dispose of “green waste.” My idea was to first convert it to charcoal (recovering combustibles to drive that process, and the next one), then using the water-gas reaction to produce pure methane to sell to the pipelines as natural gas. In the process, I got to know the CEO of Capstone, and developed a deep respect for their microturbines. They are equipped with solid-state power conditioning equipment that can sense the grid characteristics, and match them exactly (including ripple on top of the AC) within about 0.05 seconds. Yet the power grids at that time (the late 1990s) still turned their noses up at Capstone MTs as standby power (they don’t have to be spinning – they can spool up in less than a second). On top of that, they had built-in co-generation capability, supplying hot water for various purposes.

        As an aside, the economics of my scheme were dominated by the $20 per ton disposal payment. It would have been -much more cost-effective to convert the green waste to charcoal, then dispose of it in one of the thousands of exhausted mine shafts in the Mojave Desert and get carbon credits (that would actually mean something) for permanent sequestration.

  10. What’s really crazy, is the number of people who actually believe that government should have the power to regulate this kind of thing in the first place.

  11. The issue here is the PG&E hookup costs. This is a small winery, and setting up anaerobic cogeneration would cost a large part of a million dollars. It would still need Diesel backup.

    The winery I manage was given no water, so we developed an aerobic digestion system that recently recieved the first ever approval from the California Department of Public Health to use recycled winery wastewater on food contact surfaces in the winery. Cost 300k.

    • It looks like a pure “wine cellar” in European sense. No house, just wine making equipment. I wonder how much power it needs.

      • Almost certainly not. Winery waste; pomace, yeast hulls, and the discarded wine that holds various precipitates in solution is very high in low entropy Carbon. It is commonly measured by a test called BOD, or biological Oxygen demand. For perspective, human sewage has BOD usually less than 500. Winery waste can easily exceed 10,000.

        So there is a lot of potential energy there, but not enough and not at the right time to completely fuel the winery. (sound familiar?)

        California has foolishly banned the use of billions of dollars worth of existing diesel equipment, including the generator at this winery.

    • If these Yuppies (you just know they are) had any sense, they’d put up a few solar panels and call it a solar powered winery with generator backup. A few grand and it’s a done deal. It’s all in the branding right?

  12. “Can a Napa winery run on a generator, not PG&E, forever?”

    Why the hell not? They should neither be forced to connect to the monopoly PG&E nor run around in circles with changing requirements by the local county ‘planning’ commission. It’s their business how they run their business.

    • +7 billion minus 1

      If nothing else this story shows how the rats are starting to eat each other – there are too many of them in a confined space – too many people on the planet.

      Like the electric cars, did nobody see The Main Reason not to get one?
      With an electric car, charged via smart meters either at home or wherever they are.
      Electric cars give somebody else Total Control over what you do, where you go, how much ‘energy’ you use – pretty well everything.
      And not least, what it costs to do those things. Per mile, per day, per town/city, per time-of-day with money deducted straight from your bank. If you can’t/don’t pay, you, as a Free Person are simply ‘switched off’
      Nice huh
      And brain dead Tesla Turkeys are lining up for it. They simply cannot wait to absolve all freedom & responsibility for their own lives

      Just what is being looked for with the hapless winery. Total control based on the shonkiest science ever known.

      • If you can’t/don’t pay, you, as a Free Person are simply ‘switched off’

        Then you as a Free Person should start riding your bicycle.

  13. You can run a winery on a generator powered by the bloviating winery guests and staff talking endlessly about the nose or the blackcurrant undertones. . .

  14. …. neighbor Steven Stull …. claims using a generator as a permanent power source violates county codes and policies.

    Then, change the codes and policies.

    Steven Stull — Napa Hall Monitor

    (South Park image)

  15. Ah yes… reminds me of a most unusual fellow I had the privilege of knowing in the Virgin Islands. He operated a successful law practice and lived at the office. There did betide a certain circumstantial misconstruction with the municipal power authority which escapes me now, though I know it was not just about payment of utilities, some contested fee. He meticulously paid all but that for months until the power company after ample notice sent a technician in a company Jeep to remove his power meter. While the fellow was busy with the meter he had approached the Jeep and, seeing keys in the ignition, proceeded to drive the Jeep to an undisclosed location. He returned on foot and gave the man the keys saying that one bad turn deserves another. The power company sent people out to look and soon found the Jeep but also, a bucket truck arrived and removed the drop wire to his building. Thus began a span of almost two years as a 5kW propane generator was upgraded to 10 and pressed into continuous service. A concrete block shed was built around it, then double walled to reduce noise. By the end a stubborn premium of ~$50,000 had been extracted in fuel and expenses for this tantrum, not including court fines. The Virgin Islands is a microcosm where all manner of bizarre experiments have been tried at one time or another. I miss it.

  16. No one has yet mentioned the extraordinary cost of LAND in Napa… Things like solar to make electricity would be covering valuable grape land, or land for other uses. It could easily run a $Million just for the dirt. Since their production is in caves, it isn’t like they have a giant shed roof to cover.

    Now, there’s the weather issues. In N. California we have a very sunny spring, summer, and sometimes fall. Winter can be overcast / foggy / no sun for weeks to months at a time. Solar, here, DEMANDS grid backup. The ‘usual’ battery for a day off-grid just doesn’t cut it. Typical off grid use has a…. DIESEL Standby Generator or GASOLINE standby generator…

    Oh, and it’s about $10,000 PER POLE to run regular power lines. Undergrounding worse….

    Now, about MAKING wine; It happens on an annual cycle. You need a LOT of power for the crusher, running the fermenting, racking, pumping, washing, bottling… This happens when the grapes are ripe, not when you have solar happy. Then things go low demand for a lot of the year. So exactly what is the payback on those batteries that are not needed much of the year, but MUST be able to run your facility at max demand?…

    What I would do:

    1) Continue to lobby for the Diesel permit.
    2) Start buying Capstone Microturbines in 30 kW or their 60 kW increments as needed. Install a propane tank for them.
    3) Arrange for the Capstone heat to be used to heat water for cleaning, bottle washing, etc. and space heat.
    4) Call the whole thing “Water Heater with cogen”…

    I’d just love to see them try to say you can’t use propane to heat water in rural areas…
    https://www.capstoneturbine.com/

    Kid’s high school installed one of these about 10? years ago. replaced a swimming pool heater. Uses the same gas as the old heater, so gives “free” electricity. Very quiet, seems to run forever. Good economics.

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