Living Lab for Advanced Microgrids in Sonoma…Elon Musk: “Not Some Silly, Hippy Thing”…National EV Charging Coming

July 26, 2016
Sonoma farm creates advanced microgrid living lab…Musk unveils latest plan and it’s not a hippy thing…White House offers loan guarantees for EV charging
California farm creates living lab for advanced microgrids

Positioning itself as a living laboratory for advanced microgrids, California’s Stone Edge Farm says it’s ready to explore all six of the markets that the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) plans to open to distributed energy.

That’s the word from Craig Wooster, manager of the organic farm’s microgrid, who spoke earlier this month at Intersolar North America in San Francisco.

CAISO is working out rules for distributed energy resource providers, or DERPs, to compete with central power plants and sell into wholesale markets

True microgrid operations should be able to import and export energy while operating, Wooster said. To help put microgrids on that path, Stone Edge Farm says its willing to help the state work out Rule 21 interconnection rules for microgrids.

With partner DC Systems, Stone Edge Farm also plans to offer local utility Pacific Gas & Electric an opportunity to study microgrid operations from the utility side of the meter, using software control and data acquisition (SCADA).

More immediately, the 15-acre organic farm is testing microgrid islanding efficiency models at its site.

The microgrid includes seven solar photovoltaic arrays, a microturbine, and battery storage technologies including Aquion sodium ion, ESS iron flow cell, Sony and Simpli Phi lithium iron phosphate, and Tesla lithium ion batteries.

An alkaline electrolyzer at the farm uses solar-generated electricity to split water, releasing oxygen and capturing hydrogen, which is stored for use either in a fuel cell to generate electricity or in a fueling station. The station is awaiting certification from Toyota for use with two Mirai hydrogen cars on the farm.

As part of the Intersolar event, the farm offered a tour of its microgrid while in island mode on July 15. The farm will participate in the Sonoma Microgrid Conference, April 12-14, 2017, at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. (For details, email [email protected].)

Credit: Christopher Michel

Elon Musk: “It’s not some silly, hippy thing”

The thing about Elon Musk is not so much that he says anything new about the future electric grid, but that he says it so well.

Such is the case in his unveiling last week of the much-talked about Plan 2, an outline of where Tesla is heading since it issued its first plan 10 years ago.

While the first plan was all about Tesla’s vehicles, the second one encompasses Tesla’s newer and larger strategy to shape the electric grid. A key to that future is merging Tesla and SolarCity, also owned by Musk, according to a blog he posted.

Musk says the merger will make it easier for customers who want to pair their electric vehicles with their their home solar and Powerwall energy storage systems, and potentially make some money as an energy producer.

“One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app,” he says. “We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies.”

The fact that the two companies are separate at all is “largely an accident of history,” he says. “Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”

To Musk the big picture is very big.

Without sustainable energy, “we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse,” he writes. “The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what ‘sustainable’ means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone,” he writes.

Not a silly hippy thing for Obama either

The Obama administration also is clearly taking the electrification of transportation seriously as well. The White House last week announced electric vehicle charging stations can compete for $4.5 billion in loan guarantees.

The Department of Energy is accepting applications for charging stations seeking the loan guarantee money, which is also available for renewables and energy efficiency projects.

As part of the plan, the Department of Transportation is working with state and local officials to designate alternative fuel corridors for EV charging, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling. The goal is to create a national network of alternative fuel facilities.

In addition, the DOE and DOT are working together on a national network of fast charging stations so that electric vehicles can undertake coast-to-coast travel. The effort will consider:

  • Siting criteria for charging locations
  • Charging and utility infrastructure needs and cost assessment
  • Impacts of electric demand charges to consumers and utilities
  • Potential longer-term innovations including evolution up to 350 kilowatt (kW) fast charging

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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