WEBINAR: Can Microgrids Power the World?

Updated: Jun 8

Note: This blog post contains information regarding the first of two Track Two webinars on climate and the environment. To receive information about the next, be sure to sign up for our mailing list by entering your information in our footer at the bottom of this page under the heading "Join Us."


Dear Track Two Network,


Track Two is organizing our work around five global threats that include climate change and environmental degradation. Last week we held a webinar on MicroGrids with Track Two Board member Mac McQuown. The program targeted the energy aspect of climate change and the need for alternatives to fossil fuels. MicroGrids are one solution.


Thank you to those of you who joined our Zoom webinar. We loved your thought provoking questions.  Here is a brief summary followed by some additional resources on MicroGrids and Stone Edge Farm.


Mac opened the call with some context-setting. Today coal fired energy is sold to consumers at roughly $50 per ton;  the cost to remove the CO2 created from the atmosphere is $600. So the real cost should be $650/per ton to the end-consumer. And of course, none of us is paying for this cost today, and carbon is not being removed or sequestered fast enough to prevent massive warming,  providing the rationale and basis for creating alternative approaches. Further, power delivery is generally centralized. Centralized power is not particularly resilient and has largely failed to address the negative impact of carbon creation into the atmosphere in addition to posing risks associated with natural disasters. 


A MicroGrid is a self-contained system of distributed electrical generation (solar panels, fuel cell hives, microturbine) and storage (batteries, hydrogen) resources. MicroGrids stand alone, apart from centralized power systems and continue function when those centralized systems break down. The Stone Edge MicroGrid has been operating off the centralized grid since December 2019.

Photovoltaic solar panels on a roof at Stone Edge Farm

The Stone Edge MicroGrid includes several components: photovoltaic solar panels, batteries, electrolyzers, storage tanks, and the web of infrastructure that delivers clean power to everything on the 16-acre farm: three homes, magnificent workshop, commercial kitchen, offices, irrigation systems, vehicles and more. The MicroGrid also includes a controller and wiring. The controller is a custom innovation completed by Jorge Elizondo, MIT engineer, who developed the controller at Stone Edge Farm with Mac and his team. That team includes more than 60 interns from engineering programs across the globe.

(Click the arrow on the righthand sign of the photo to see more images)


During the Q&A Mac was asked how much it would cost to create a MicroGrid for a 2,000 square foot house. Mac explained that today electrolyzers are very large - the size of a school bus. However, a small house would not "need" an electrolyzer that large. In fact, a small fraction of that capacity would suffice. Can electrolyzers be downsized to serve a house? And if not a house, could a MicroGrid serve a community? Mac and Jorge reported that there is a MicroGrid in the works for an army base in the southwest to which Jorge is consulting. It seems highly possible therefore that a community could adopt a MicroGrid solution using clean energy including hydrogen.


For now, encouraging our Track Two network to seed this concept is our intent. We can all educate those in our own networks about the opportunity MicroGrids offer to reduce carbon emissions and build availability and resiliency of power systems. Stone Edge is a premiere example of implementation, and Mac has confirmed his willingness to share his innovations with those who are interested. More on this topic to come at the Track Two News on our website!


We will be offering a webinar on COVID19 and the Wildlife Trade on June 10th, 2020. Details to follow.


Wishing all of you continued good health and peace,


The Track Two Team


RESOURCES:

  • This video (7 minutes) highlights the innovative step taken at Stone Edge Farm to include hydrogen, which has high storage capacity, in the MicroGrid mix.

  • This video (5 minutes) discusses the use of certain technologies within the MicroGrid.

  • More on the Stone Edge Farm MicroGrid is available on the Stone Edge Farm website.

  • Resources from the California Public Utilities website are found here.


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