Chick-fil-A Restaurants to Install Test Microgrids ahead of Possible National Rollout

June 24, 2021
Restaurants in San Diego, Santa Rosa and Stockton, California will beta-test the SolMicroGrid system designed for 5,000-square-foot buildings.

Ahead of a possible national rollout, SolMicroGrid, an energy-as-a-service microgrid company, is setting up microgrids at three Chick-fil-A restaurants in California.

Restaurants in San Diego, Santa Rosa and Stockton will beta-test the SolMicroGrid system designed for 5,000-square-foot buildings, according to the company, which is backed by Morgan Stanley Energy Partners.

Chick-fil-A hopes the microgrids will give local franchised restaurant operators more control over peak power costs and power outages.

“Giant retailers are using these systems, and we believe it could be the future for us, too,” said Stephanie Armistead, Chick-fil-A’s principal sustainability program lead.

Chick-fil-A eyes larger rollout of microgrids

After Chick-fil-A finishes the pilot this fall, the company will evaluate how well the microgrids improved business continuity and reduced costs. Depending on the results, the company aims to install microgrids at restaurants with the most urgent needs by the end of this year. Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has about 2,600 restaurants.

The microgrids will provide continuous power during local utility outages using a mix of solar, off-site natural gas generators and on-site energy storage controlled by an artificial intelligence dashboard, according to SolMicroGrid. The gas generators will only be used during power outages, according to Chick-fil-A.

“This solution will allow us to provide a place where guests in the community can convene, enjoy a meal and plug in when power may not be available to their homes,” said April Farage, a Chick-fil-A operator in Stockton, California.

Energy costs at the Stockton restaurant can jump 70% in the summer, according to Farage. 

“Unexpected power outages are problematic in lots of ways — they create uncertainty among our customers and cause waste,” Farage said. “I’m really hopeful that this microgrid will provide some independence from commercial energy.”

There has been a surge of interest in microgrids in California after the state’s major utilities started “public safety power shutoffs” to reduce the risk power lines could spark wildfires.

Under the energy-as-a-service model, the restaurants won’t have to pay upfront costs for the microgrids. The restaurants will pay for the projects under long-term contracts.

SolMicroGrid focuses on C&I customers

SolMicroGrid, founded in 2019 and based in Alpharetta, Georgia, develops and operates microgrids for commercial and industrial customers.

Matt Ward, SolMicroGrid CEO, and Joyce Bone, the company’s president, worked with Chick-fil-A to develop their microgrid system, which can be used at restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores pharmacies and other community-essential businesses.

“The intention from the inception of SolMicroGrid was to provide community-critical businesses with the clean, renewable energy they need to serve their customers even during times of crisis, as well as to address the trend of increasing costs in energy,” Ward said.

Morgan Stanley investment funds invested in SolMicroGrid, with some of the funding going to the initial deployment of the company’s solar-enabled microgrids in California, the financial company said in early January. 

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About the Author

Ethan Howland

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