PG&E power shut off possibilities costing Bay Area wineries big bucks

WINDSOR, Calif. (KGO) -- Just the possibility of PG&E power shutoffs is costing Bay Area businesses a lot of money as they pay up for backup plans.

"You can feel right now how cold that is," said Robert Morris, next to one of his fermentation tanks.

RELATED: PG&E to shut off power to 48,000 customers in Northern California

Morris is the co-owner and General Manager of Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor, where cooling is key. Morris has 2,500 barrels of wine at his Sonoma County facility and about 600 tons of grapes that will be processed this year.

"We're looking at millions of dollars' worth of inventory that really cannot get warm."

Morris and the rest of the wine country are in the middle of harvest. They need PG&E, and their power, to keep the wine and grapes cool, so the threat of large scale power shut-offs is no small inconvenience.

"As a business owner, I really don't like being in this situation, because it causes me a lot of anxiety."

It also costs Morris a lot of money. "This is what it boils down to-- $42,000 of United Rentals generator, and we're ready for the power shut down," he said pointing to a large white backup generator in his parking lot.

That $42,000 is money spent, whether the power goes out or not. It's an insurance policy he hopes not to use since the cost of diesel fuel to run the generator would cost him several more thousand dollars a day.

When he's not running his wine business, Morris works as a reserve firefighter in Healdsburg. He worked 96 hours straight fighting the 2017 Wine Country fires and says we need to prevent those type of wildfires, at all costs.

"As a firefighter, I don't want to see fires started from downed power lines, so it's probably a good preventative measure, it's just a very unfortunate set of circumstances."

Those circumstances are shared by many businesses in the North Bay.

The electrical contractor who setup Robert's generator says before PG&E public safety power shutoffs, they would normally have set-up five backup generators by this time of year.

But this year, they've rented out 35 units--seven times the usual number.
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