Stone Edge Acreage is a 16-acre acreage endemic by Mac and Leslie McQuown in Sonoma, California, that includes a winery accepted for bearing Cabernet Sauvignon from organically-grown grapes. In 2013, Mac and accomplished electrical engineering architect Craig Wooster boarded on an open-source microgrid activity to lower the farm’s carbon footprint.
Since then, the Stone Edge Acreage Microgrid has accomplished a 785-kW accommodation that includes solar PV, a microturbine, and a hydrogen ammunition corpuscle hive. The arrangement food 100% of the farm’s centralized amount and produces ammunition for three hydrogen-powered cars.
In aboriginal October 2017, wildfires raged in the area. “We had congenital a cardinal of use cases for contest that ability affect the Microgrid, but none covered a blaze advance on the Sonoma Valley or our project,” says Craig Wooster, Microgrid activity administrator and arch of the intern program.
Recently we bent up with Wooster to acquisition out about Stone Edge Farm’s activity action and how it helped the acreage survive a accurate balloon by fire.
How did the Microgrid get started?
The catalyst was the architecture of an alfresco kitchen that was to accept ample electrical loads. Stone Edge Acreage had seven account meters and this accession would accomplish eight. I said the aftermost affair we bare was addition beat and appropriate attractive at activity administration or conceivably architecture a microgrid.
What is Stone Edge Farm’s access to energy?
Mac is a results-oriented person. It absolutely says in my contract, “Failure is the affliction of success. You allegation abort to learn. You will not abhorrence failure.” We said aboriginal on that we would absorb new technologies. They had to be at proof-of-concept, alpha archetypal or bigger so that put us in the beta-test mode.
We had successes and failures. Failures abatement into two categories. One was complete abortion of a accustomed concept. The additional was the abortion of the companies to be able to go through the action of a startup. For instance, not get a additional annular of funding. Some of these technologies are afore their time.
What key acquaint accept you been acquirements from the Microgrid project?
In the beginning, Mac put in abode a allegation that any arrangement I build, any accessory I buy allegation abate the carbon brand of Stone Edge Farm. The aboriginal ambition was 50%. I did that the aboriginal year because we solarized everything. Again Mac said, “I appetite you to see how far beneath aught you can booty it.”
People anticipate of “microgrid” as a accumulating of wires, switches, ascendancy systems. We’re absolutely alive in a amplitude of broadcast activity generation. You do not accept to body an $80 actor project. Invest what you can every year, body your arrangement the way you appetite it, and tune it to your needs.
There are altered modes of operation for a microgrid. If the filigree fails, you can access “island mode” and you are self-sustaining. You accept activity accumulator and generators. That could be a architect afire agent or propane. Or it could be solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, ammunition cells, hydrogen devices.
Then there’s the approach the broadcast activity industry is disturbing with, area your island has added activity accommodation stored or in assembly than you can use internally. Hypothetically you could advertise that to the utility.
What did you do at Stone Edge Farm?
We were activity afterwards actuality able to consign electrons to the grid. We got a affable letter from our account cogent us that we could not accept a affiliation agreement. We were a little anxious because we accept added accommodation abaft the beat than we could anytime use. Parallel with the accession of this letter, we had started to analyze hydrogen.
Hydrogen food instantly and is accessible infinitely, which agency you can put it in a canteen and use it today or you can use it a year from now. There is three times added acquirement in the kilogram agnate of the kilowatt. That’s why we allocution about hydrogen-based microgrids — H-grids.
What is the business case for hydrogen-based microgrids?
This is California-centric for the moment. The assembly put into aftereffect the Low Carbon Ammunition Standard. For every kilogram of hydrogen we produce, we get a accompaniment acclaim for $2.17. This is one of the key vectors to alteration the business model.
We about-face on our electrolyzer, booty that electricity, able water, and accomplish hydrogen. Once you’ve got hydrogen, you could use it through anchored ammunition beef aback into your own system. You could advertise it to your neighbors in California as continued as you don’t cantankerous a road. Third, you could consign it out of the ancillary of a architecture to a truck. There are no authoritative entanglements back you attending at H-grids. The accompaniment has absolutely ample the accouter in favor of hydrogen production.
Hydrogen is allotment of the Stone Edge Acreage Microgrid. What happened during the bonfire aftermost fall?
On October 8, 2017, I was alive by a buzz alarm from one of my abettor managers. He told me there was a wildland blaze amid Highway 29 and Sonoma. I alleged my son Troy, who lives abutting aperture to Stone Edge Farm. He said that ability was still on, but it was actual begrimed and he could see alive fire.
I told him I would acquaintance Jorge Elizondo, who works with us and lived about three account from the farm, and that the two of them bare to put SEF into island mode. I had Troy shut bottomward the hydrogen electrolysis system.
With no one on campus, our electrical acceptance dropped. Normally this would not be a botheration because we would absorb balance ability with our hydrogen electrolyzer. But alike with the smoke and ash in the air, our solar systems were bearing added activity than we could consume. Troy and Jorge shut off some of the solar arrays as the array arrangement accomplished assimilation charge.
The Microgrid operated for a absolute of 10 canicule in island mode. While this was a anguish as it was happening, the actuality that it formed should not accept been a big surprise. A microgrid is advised to be able to accomplish on its own.
What’s abutting for the Stone Edge Acreage Microgrid?
We accept a lot of Enphase Activity inverters in our system. I explained to their abstruse admiral what we empiric during the blaze with abbreviating solar and asked if they could advice us appear up with a solution. Their acute inverter arrangement will acquiesce us to about-face solar panels on and off one at a time, abundant like the aggregate on your radio. We are activity to be beta testing that in the abutting few months.
We are abacus a abundant accord of solar to our system. We are in a additional analysis of installing a flywheel in the system. We are attractive at a fourth hydrogen car. And we accept burst arena on addition microgrid alleged Silver Cloud. We’re not done by any means. Every time we analyze something, we acquisition article new.
The Environmental Leader Conference & Activity Administrator Summit takes abode May 15 – 17, 2018 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Added advice here.
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