Friday Thoughts from the Editor's Porch: Speeding up Interconnection and Making Food Production Cleaner, Energy-Wise

Hurry up and wait, as the saying goes, may or may not have originated in the military, but it’s appropo to everyday life. Meet that deadline to file your taxes and send what you owe, but it might be months before you see that return in the mail. Pay for those concert tickets — six months before the show.

Renewable energy and microgrid developers face much longer delays once they set a project in motion. This week, Lisa Cohn wrote about solar microgrids that are helping to shorten those sometimes interminable interconnection delays. Let the sun shine in.

One key microgrid that has made it all the way through the queue is PG&E’s remote microgrid in Sonoma County. This microgrid, which provides backup power for the Pepperwood Preserve, is the utility’s first remote microgrid powered purely on renewables and energy storage. No fossil fuel gensets.

The energy transition is not a future thing, although it feels like forever sometimes. You don’t have to wait — it’s happening now.

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From field to grocery aisle, the food industry worldwide shines in how it has evolved and expanded over the last century. In the U.S., for instance, the agriculture and food production sector has dealt with a population that has more than doubled, producing more crops on less farmland with fewer laborers. The three-course meal is efficiency, innovation and hard work.

The path from farm to processing to grocery aisle to table, however, also produces nearly a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now, the same can-do spirit that has revolutionized food production efficiency is also ready to tackle decarbonization.

SmartParc, which has developed a multitenant food processing site in the United Kingdom, contracted Veolia to aid in greater use of efficient heating and cooling technologies, while also contracting for more solar and wind power near the site. The move could reduce GHG emissions by 30,000 metric tons per year compared with recent traditional food processing energy use.

Last year, food producer Taylor Farms announced it was exiting the main grid and building a microgrid in tandem with Bloom Energy. International baking operation Bimbo Bakeries contracted GreenStruxure to help it install microgrids at multiple sites.

The commercial and industrial energy transition isn’t just about fleets going electric or rooftop solar at the campus. Bedrock industries such as agriculture and manufacturing are getting on board and embracing on-site decarbonization. This will build a healthier and well-nourished economy all around.

About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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