A Call for the Microgrid Industry to Join Forces Following Rejection of Carson, California Project

Sept. 20, 2018
A California developer is calling for the microgrid industry to join forces to improve communications with communities following the rejection of a project by Carson, California earlier this month.

A California developer is calling for the microgrid industry to join forces to improve communications with communities following the rejection of a project by Carson, California earlier this month.

Craig Wooster, manager of the Stone Edge Farm microgrid, has issued an open letter saying the microgrid industry must find a way to speak with a common voice, create guidelines for customer education and foster industry standards. (Microgrid Knowledge published the letter today.)

Wooster was among those who testified in favor of a microgrid proposed in Carson by Charge Bliss, which had won a $1.5 million California Energy Commission grant in 2016 to begin development. The project was eligible to compete for an additional $10 million from the CEC.

However, the grant application fell apart when the city council rejected the power purchase agreement on September 4.

Council members expressed confusion about the project and the contract during a public meeting in August.

The city said that disagreements centered on profit sharing, ownership of renewable energy credits, and responsibility for equipment at the end of the 20-year contract. The city also asked that the project be reduced from a $20 million to $15 million endeavor.

But David Bliss, CEO of Charge Bliss, said he repeatedly addressed their concerns and provided the requested information to city staff and consultants. The city and Charge Bliss worked together on the project for over a year.

Testifying before the council August 21, Wooster said that he feared that a no vote would lead to what would become known within the microgrid industry as the “Carson Effect” — a reticence by developers to work with similar cities on microgrids.

In the end, the commission said it was instead looking into a community solar project as part of Carson’s sustainability drive. (Note: community solar differs from a microgrid in that it cannot provide back-up power during a power outage as a microgrid can.)

During the final September 4 meeting on the microgrid project, city councilor Elito Santarina expressed concern about possible negative press and asked city staff to come up with bullet points explaining the city’s rejection. “Our citizens are very interested in the project. I have received calls…” he said. “ I just want to make sure we are ready, just in case.”

The city council’s discussions about the Carson microgrid are viewable on the city website for August 7, August 21and September 4.

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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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