CleanSpark’s Latest Project: A Hint of the Grid of Microgrids to Come?

Aug. 22, 2016
A small microgrid being developed at a California golf club by CleanSpark offers a hint of the grid of microgrids or ‘fractal grid’ energy futurists foresee.

A small microgrid being developed at a California golf club by CleanSpark offers a hint of the grid of microgrids or ‘fractal grid’ energy futurists foresee.

A developer of microgrid control technology, CleanSpark last week announced completion of the $2.7 million phase one of the microgrid at the Rams Hill Golf Club.

The microgrid itself appears somewhat ordinary at first glance with its 832-kW solar installation. But its address is eye-catching to those in the microgrid business. It’s located in Borrego Springs, home to San Diego Gas & Electric’s prototype microgrid.

This is significant because CleanSpark has made clear that it’s all about transforming the U.S. electric grid into a grid of microgrids. In this vision of the future, families of microgrids – parent and siblings – connect and work together to maximize resources. Control software, like that offered by CleanSpark, allows each microgrid to manage its internal resources or share generation and services with other microgrids when it makes sense for economic, reliability or environmental reasons.

Nothing is firm yet, but CleanSpark hopes to enter into discussions with SDGE next year about connecting the golf club microgrid with the utility’s Borrego Springs microgrid.

Connecting the two microgrids “would perfectly exemplify what we believe is the most effective technical approach to a renewable, sustainable and distributed future – the fractal microgrid,” Michael Firenze, CleanSpark’s CEO told Microgrid Knowledge.

The Rams Hill microgrid is a project of Webcor, a San Francisco-based builder, solar service provider Sungevity and CleanSpark.

Completed in five months, the first phase is expected to save the golf club about $300,000 per year in energy costs.

If the owner chooses to fully build it out, the microgrid will be a $10 million project.  The microgrid already has a behind-the meter 12-kV infrastructure that enables plug and play capabilities in the future for energy storage integration and additional microgrid functionality. So next phases may include adding load, generation, distributed storage and possibly a differentiated baseload power generation source, such as a gasifer.

“Of course there will be a constant betterment and enhancement through enabling software-based applications as they become available — demand response, ancillary services etc.,” Firenze said. “But that is standard with our installations.”

CleanSpark also has worked on the fractal microgrid demonstration project at Camp Pendleton.

The company’s parent, Stratean, is known for its stratified downdraft gasifier, a technology that produces energy with zero airborne emissions from municipal solid waste, coal, plastics, sewage and other feedstocks.  Stratean acquired CleanSpark in a $36 million deal last month.

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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 RealEnergyWriters.com, 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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