Microgrid Development:  A Hot Topic

Microgrid Development: A Hot Topic

At our in-person MeetUp at the California Mobility Center in the evening of June 1, we brought up one of the hottest topics in clean tech—microgrids.  The discussion was not disappointing. We have had three prior discussions on the spread and benefits of microgrids, so this was more of an update on the state of play.  

California has been slow in adopting microgrids, due to the perceived problems in harmonizing their operation with overall grid operations.  Customers clearly see benefits in terms of lower costs and better reliability, but the utilities want to be sure there are public benefits as well.

Allie DeTrio, Chief Strategist for ReImagine Power, and Senior Advisor for the nationwide  Microgrid Resources Coalition, provided the proponents’ views, while Patrick McCoy, a strategic business planner from SMUD, described why utilities are being cautious. The problem boils down to having enough control of the microgrids to make them assets to the larger system rather than a source of concern.  But control requires investment in sensors, switches, communication and software that can be expensive and at this stage might be too rudimentary to work well.

Patrick noted that control is easier and cheaper if there is a big power source that is set up to be harnessed within the microgrid.  Back east that source is often a diesel or microturbine generator, usually running on natural gas.  In his view, that accounts for the more rapid pace of deployment of microgrids there.  In California, in contrast, statutory and regulatory policy requires avoiding the use of such generators.  Instead, the most likely substitute is a large battery storage system or extensive load controls to achieve the same thing—or both.  But that’s a costly alternative and one not completely proven.  The audience raised the point about using EVs connected to a two-way charger as part of the solution, since those batteries would not need to be purchased just for the microgrid.

The proponents counter that the utility is not paying microgrids enough for all the services they can provide the grid and that some courage in proceeding to demonstration projects could resolve the debate.  

Fortunately, it looks like California will see some of those demos.  SMUD will be doing some pilot projects this summer, paying a $2500 incentive up front along with performance payments for the services provided. Under a CPUC rule, the investor-owned utilities will be offering a different version of a “Microgrid Incentive Program”.  The program rules adopted in April for the MIP establish a $200 million program previously authorized by the CPUC to support the development of community microgrids in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, as well as tribal communities, who have experienced and are likely to experience power outages. It allocates $79.2 million for PG&E, $83.3 million for SCE, and $17.5 million for SDG&E to build complex projects that can operate independently for extended periods and serve multiple customers in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Projects selected under the MIP can receive up to $15 million in award funding. The Decision aims to advance microgrid resiliency technology, distribute the benefits of microgrids equitably across these vulnerable communities, and provide insights for future actions that can enhance the resilience of the power system to benefit all customers.

Those programs should be a flag for innovators out there to craft business ideas to take advantage of the incentives both now and in the future.  Money is on the way.  Policy is aligned to promote microgrids.  What ideas do you have to make microgrids more attractive that could be a business?

This topic will be with us for a long time.  Don’t miss the next installment as we return to the subject in 2024.

PowerUp Recap: Wine and Clean Energy Innovation

PowerUp Recap: Wine and Clean Energy Innovation

The PowerUp Networking Event, held at Lucide Winery, brought together a dynamic mix of clean energy enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and policy makers in an atmosphere pulsating with innovation and ideas. Attendees talked about Microgrids, Wind Power, AI energy management and Wine.

Kevin Luther, founder of Lucide Winery, shared his story of innovation in business served as the perfect backdrop for this unique gathering. He highlighted the matching innovation with what customers are willing to pay for. This led to discussions, connecting over wine and clean energy. The event sparked dialogues on reducing carbon footprints, implementing renewable energy sources, and leveraging cutting-edge technologies.

If you missed it, that is ok. We will be back at Lucid Winery on June 22nd. Make Sure to Join us!

The PowerUp Networking Event proved to be a catalyst for change, igniting a spark of creativity and fostering collaborations that would shape a more sustainable future. As attendees departed, they carried with them a shared vision: one where the power of clean energy merges with the timeless beauty of winemaking to create a world that thrives on innovation, sustainability, and a passion for a greener tomorrow.

Kvein Luther talking about innovation
Discussion Energy and WIne
CleanStart Exc. Director Thomas Hall talks clean tech
Students Pitch at the  “Destination Decarbonization Challenge”

Students Pitch at the “Destination Decarbonization Challenge”

Last week, the Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Center at Fresno State hosted a pitch event for undergraduate students interested in student entrepreneurship and decarbonization. Dubbed the “Destination Decarbonization Challenge,” the event provided an opportunity for students from different universities across California to present innovative ideas aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the Central Valley.

Many student teams applied but eight made it to the competition. At the competition the student teams presented their projects to a panel of judges consisting of environmental and industry experts. The teams had the chance to win cash prizes, with the first-place team receiving $6,000 without any restrictions.

The competition showcased some exceptional student entrepreneurship skills, with the winning team composed of three Fresno State students. Team Project Zero developed a device prototype capable of measuring carbon content in soil, helping farmers maximize their land’s efficiency. The second-place award of $4,000 went to Team Six-Thousand Dollar,who proposed an app-based carpool program for students reducing vehicle miles traveled, lowering carbon emissions and building relationships between the students while saving them money on fuel and auto maintenance.

The third-place award of $2,500 went to Team SustainaBulldogs, who made an ambitious pitch to implement self-contained electricity microgrids across the Central Valley, specifically Fresno County, using urban green space for carbon sequestration and data analysis to determine the best trees for each location.

The Destination Decarbonization Challenge launched by the WET Center in December 2022 is an excellent opportunity for student entrepreneurs to showcase their skills in decarbonization. It is open to undergraduate students in groups of two to four, providing a platform for young innovators to present new and unique solutions to reduce carbon emissions in the Central Valley. The prize money comes with no restrictions, and the hope is that it will be invested in the next project, encouraging students to take their ideas to the next level.

Thomas Hall


Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.


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