California 550 MW virtual power plant would be the biggest yet

by Dan Gearino, InsideClimateNews


  • Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners and OlmConnect have collaborated on a virtual power plant project titled Resi-Station
  • Resi-Station would use batteries at homes and businesses in California to act like a 550-megawatt power plant, becoming the largest virtual power plant in the world
  • This power can be used as backup in the case of power shut-offs, wildfire risks, and other outages
  • The project kicks off in 2021, starting with 150,000 OlmConnect customers and should be fully built by 2023

Community Energy Resilience through clean energy microgrids is a key pillar in The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign.

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Turns out Democrats and Republicans agree on something – microgrids

by Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge


Massachusettes based think tank, Civil Society Institute, conducted a survey that shows Independents, Democrats, and Republican voters have an interest in microgrids:

  • Around 1,000 voters were surveyed and more than half had never heard of the concept
  • After receiving a short description of the concept, more people became interested to learn more about microgrids and how they pertained to issues such as climate change, grid security, and grid modernization


    Image from Civil Society Institute, Sourced from Microgrid Knowledge
  • Bipartisan support could eventually lead to the adoption of more microgrids 

The Climate Center has launched a new initiative supporting clean and smart community microgrids to build community energy resilience. The initiative, called “Advanced Community Energy,” will establish a decentralized power system of community microgrids built from the bottom up with clean power and storage to reduce the number of outages both planned and unplanned. 

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PG&E’s fossil fuel-powered microgrids

by Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive


  • The towns of Angwin, Calistoga, Placerville, and Grass Valley are part of PG&E’s effort to build a network of “resilience zones” and temporary microgrids in portions of its service territory that are especially vulnerable to fire-related outages. PG&E deployed 23 MW of temporary generation from fossil fuel power (diesel) in the four towns powering fire stations, medical centers, and business districts.
  • PG&E is looking for projects that can deploy between 4 MW and 69.9 MW  for four or five consecutive days without any load drop and be able to meet peak and minimum customer demand throughout that period. Some feel that 100% renewables plus storage is not tenable with these requirements
  • “We think you could do clean energy —​ it’s a mix of generation, batteries and demand response,” Sierra Club’s Amezcua said, adding that PG&E’s plans for its resilience zones needs to be consistent with the state’s air quality and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

The Climate Center’s Advanced Community Energy program employs microgrids for resilience and carbon-free power with storage.

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Microgrid companies to California: Help us help you

by Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge

We can move faster installing microgrids, but you need to make some changes. That’s the overarching message from microgrid companies to California regulators as the state faces utility power shutoffs for years to come.

The recommendations are pouring into the California Public Utilities Commission as it attempts to translate into regulation a law (SB 1339) that calls for the state to facilitate the commercialization of microgrids.

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Energy resilient communities through distributed, clean, smart and local microgrids (Advanced Community Energy or ACE)

by Kurt Johnson, The Climate Center (read full article on our website here)

As climate-related disruptions grow more frequent and severe, we urgently need effective local strategies to achieve decarbonization, resilience, social equity and security. The common basis for all these goals is to create local electric systems — carbon-free, safe, resilient and accessible to all — in every community throughout California. This requires a new state-led, state-funded program to empower all local governments statewide to plan and implement such systems.

Advanced Community Energy (ACE) is an initiative to establish, through legislation, a program to provide funding, technical expertise, best practices and local capacity building for all cities and counties to plan and implement local ACE systems, starting with community microgrids. Under the state program, ACE planning will involve collaboration between local government agencies, local residents and stakeholders, especially vulnerable households and disadvantaged neighborhoods, electric distribution utilities, and clean energy developers and technology companies….

Community Microgrid Schematic

….The ACE initiative is proposing new legislation for the 2020 legislative session to include the following elements:

        • Create a state-managed and state-funded program of support for local governments to develop and implement local ACE plans.
        • Increase state funding to support critical-facility microgrid projects, starting with high fire risk areas and eventually covering all of California.
        • Direct the CPUC to develop regulatory rules for its jurisdictional electric distribution utilities to collaborate with cities and counties in their service areas on ACE planning.

 In the coming months The Climate Center will be developing additional details of the ACE initiative in collaboration with California stakeholders interested in pursuing the ideas described above. If you would like to discuss this initiative with members of the ACE team please contact Kurt Johnson (kurt @ theclimatecenter .org). If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive future updates, click here.

California’s wildfire threat could be an opportunity for clean-energy microgrids

by Sammy Roth, LA Times

To the untrained eye, the shipping containers clustered on the outskirts of Borrego Springs don’t look like an innovative clean-energy technology that could help California cope with wildfires.

But these containers, in the remote desert of eastern San Diego County, are packed with lithium-ion batteries — and they’re part of one of the world’s most advanced microgrids. It combines solar panels, diesel generators, energy storage and something called an ultracapacitor to power Borrego Springs, even when electricity isn’t flowing through the single transmission line that connects the town to the main power grid.

“I believe this is the only microgrid in the world that does what this does,” said Steven Prsha, an engineer for San Diego Gas & Electric Co., as he wrapped up a tour last month.

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Proof that decentralized energy devices can deliver reliable power to the grid

by Julian Spector, Greentech Media

Sunrun will get its chance to prove that home batteries and solar panels can stack up against traditional power plants.

The San Francisco-based company won a 20-megawatt bid in the forward capacity auction for ISO New England, which operates the electric grid in six Northeastern states. That auction ensures that enough grid capacity will be online in 2022.

Unlike previous winners, Sunrun did not bid a traditional power plant. Its product is a network of small solar and battery installations that will go into roughly 5,000 customer homes across the region. The company is promising to aggregate across those systems to deliver the necessary power to the grid, while also keeping the host customers happy.

Sunrun has vocally promoted this vision, as it expanded from simply installing solar panels into battery storage and grid services business lines. Many other companies and analysts share the belief that distributed resources, acting together, can provide a cleaner, more resilient and cheaper alternative to centralized grid architectures.

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Stone Edge Farm’s microgrid and the future of energy

by Ann Hancock, Executive Director, The Climate Center

On August 3, 2018, Stone Edge Farm unplugged from the grid, a celebratory moment for the team that made it possible. For supporters like us, the moment offers a glimpse into the future of energy.

To unplug, Stone Edge Farm got no permission or help from PG&E. Everything on the bustling 16-acre urban farm kept humming along uninterrupted, supplied by their own sources of energy.

Stone Edge Farm has developed a state-of-the-art microgrid that integrates energy generation – solar, microturbine, and hydrogen fuel cells – with storage – batteries and hydrogen – and real time monitoring and control.

If Puerto Rico, with $3 billion already spent to deal with the longest blackout in U.S. history, had microgrids, much of the disruption in electricity service could have been avoided, according to expert Cathy Kunkel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.


Microgrids are essential building blocks of the twenty-first century energy systems for at least three reasons, resilience, cost, and greenhouse gas reductions. Microgrids can “island,” meaning disconnect from the utility grid and supply electricity on their own without interruption when the utility grid breaks down.

Regarding resiliency, as reported previously by The Climate Center, the farm had its first big test in October 2017 when the wildfires knocked out power in the area. As the inferno ran rampant across Sonoma County, Craig Wooster, Stone Edge Farm’s engineer, flipped a few switches remotely, and the farm’s power stayed on for about ten hours while the rest of the area was in darkness. Imagine if hospitals, shelters and other emergency services had this capacity in the event of a natural disaster; it could be the difference between life and death.

As for cost, microgrids are increasingly competitive with the utility grid. A study led by Rocky Mountain Institute found that millions of customers will be able to cost-effectively depart from the grid. This represents billions of dollars in utility revenues. The threat to utilities of microgrids is real, not hypothetical.

Lastly, microgrids unlock opportunities for significant greenhouse gas emission reductions, starting with onsite solar and storage.


Stone Edge Farm’s microgrid has the flexibility to operate in four different modes:

  1. Island mode – disconnected from the utility grid, supplied by their own energy sources
  2. Connected to the utility grid and drawing electricity from it
  3. Connected to the utility grid, but neither drawing nor supplying electricity to it
  4. Islanded from the utility grid and supplying energy to the utility grid. The ability to operate in this last mode makes Stone Edge Farm unique at present.


The California Public Utilities Commission, regulator of the state’s electricity system, is very concerned with the system’s stability, including the viability of PG&E and other investor-owned utilities. For this reason, the Commission imposes rules about unplugging from the grid as well as supplying power into the grid. Regulatory obstacles, primarily parts of Rule 21, prevent Stone Edge Farm from operating in the fourth mode described above.

According to Craig, Rule 21 is a quagmire. Craig asserts that instead of being a threat to grid stability, microgrids are a benefit to stability. Because of their onsite storage, microgrids can reduce their demand on the grid when peak load events occur.

Philosophy and Prime Directive

The innovation propelling Stone Edge Farm’s microgrid is consistent with owner Mac McQuown’s way of doing business. As an inventor of financial instruments, he created one of the original S&P 500 index funds, and he helped reinvent the corporate bond.

Mac’s prime directive for the microgrid’s engineering team is to reduce the farm’s carbon footprint as far below zero as possible, and to establish a degree of energy independence. He enables the team to be unconstrained by money, protecting intellectual property rights (Everything is open source), and conventional thinking. As Craig Wooster said, “We don’t think outside the box; we get rid of the box.” This suits Craig whose passion is to do things as they’ve never been done before.

Another tenet underlying Stone Edge Farm’s microgrid is seeing failure as an inherent part of the process. Mac’s direction to Craig is, “You will not fear failure. It is the crucible of success. You will do some things twice and some things three times.”

As a self-declared anarchist, Mac believes in distributed control, and believes that serendipity is the generating function of the universe. Parallels with his philosophy and the Stone Edge Farm microgrid are clear.

Two fundamental design principles were described by Jorge Elizondo, an electrical engineer from MIT with a passion for sustainability who’s worked on Stone Edge Farm’s microgrid since 2015. The first principle is circularity that supports synergies among the parts, and creates resiliency so that if any part malfunctions, the system continues working. The second is modularity and decentralization which render flexibility to the system because components can be separated and recombined.


Mac’s highest aspirations for the microgrid is to demonstrate a way of thinking that breaks the norm.  For Jorge it is for the solutions developed at Stone Edge Farm to spread. And for Craig it is to inspire anyone thinking of developing a microgrid to not get hung up on planning; get started and take the journey.


Author’s note: On October 16, 2018, Craig Wooster died unexpectedly. Craig leaves a legacy with his enormous contribution with microgrids to our renewable energy future. The photo at left is of the box containing the switch that connects and disconnects the microgrid and the larger grid, surrounded by Craig, Jorge, and Mac. It was taken Sept. 28, 2018.



More info

Mac McQuown – 34-minute video of conversations between Mac and David Booth

Stone Edge Farm Microgrid website:  

Stone Edge Farm Facebook page:

Stone Edge Farm Brief, Ryan Stoltenberg, December 20, 2017,

Stone Edge Farm — A Sandbox for Microgrid Development, Kyle Field, CleanTechnica, November 24, 2017,

“The economics of grid defection,” Rocky Mountain Institute, Homer Energy, and Cohreznick Think Energy, Feb 2014,

USA Today – October 18, 2018, “$3 billion already spent to end longest blackout in US history. Could renewable energy help Puerto Rico?”

El Paso Electric powers up state’s largest community solar grid

by Steve Hanley, Clean Technica

El Paso Electric has powered up the largest community solar grid in the state of Texas. As a kind of trolling of the outgoing pollution industry (unintentional trolling, we would presume), the community solar facility is located next to an existing natural gas generating facility. It’s a 21 acre solar farm, which would be hard to miss, and has a max output of 3 megawatts of power thanks to the whopping 33,000 solar panels in the “farm.” Basically, this makes it “commercial scale” more than “utility scale” (large solar farms go into the hundreds of megawatts), but the “community solar” designation means that consumers can buy into the ownership and rewards of the solar project.

The community solar farm “is currently maxed out at 1,500 customers with an additional 500 customers on a waiting list,” Fox News reports.

The solar panels are mounted to racks that tilt to follow the sun during the day, maximizing efficiency. Each has been treated with a special coating to reduce the reflected heat they give off on a sunny Texas day, something that has proven hazardous to birds in some areas.

El Paso Electric began the permitting process in June of 2015. Construction began in November of last year. Enrollment opened in March 2017. And the community solar project was fully subscribed by the end of April. In other words, there seems to be clear and strong demand for community solar power opportunities … even in Texas (which already has large and well known wind power and natural gas industries).

“This is actually one of the first facilities where we actually now own it. And now with our customers voluntarily being part of that program it becomes a program I think our customers will be proud to see,” said Eddie Gutierrez, a spokesperson for El Paso Electric.

Community solar is designed to meet the needs of people who can’t have rooftop solar of their own, like renters and condo dwellers. There’s a large portion of the population that simply doesn’t have a roof they can put solar panels on in order to clean up their electricity supply, or who perhaps have a roof but one that is not able to produce a lot of solar power (often due to shading). Community solar is the solution that allows them (you?) to go solar as well.

Subscribers pay a fixed rate of $20.96 per kilowatt per month for their community solar power. That’s higher than the regular retail rate in the area but it protects customers from any price increases for conventional power in the future, which are likely. Subscribers must sign up for a minimum of one kilowatt but can add to their subscription in half-kilowatt increments. Pricing details are available on the company website.

A one-year agreement with El Paso Electric is required initially, but customers are free to leave the program at any time after the expiration of the first year. The membership is portable, provided the subscriber moves to another location in the EPE service area. El Paso Electric is planning similar community solar projects for subscribers in New Mexico in the near future.

“Utility community solar programs have proven to be successful around the nation as electric utilities are able to utilize cost effective utility-scale solar resources in developing customer offerings, and EPE is excited to bring this new program to our community,” says former EL Paso Electric CEO Tom Schokley. (What are the odds that a utility company CEO would be named Schokley?)