Home Energy conservation The link between food, energy, war and microgrids

The link between food, energy, war and microgrids


Food and energy are two intertwined commodities, with recent price spikes making the world painfully aware.

In February, food recorded its largest 12-month price increase in 40 years. Meanwhile, energy prices rose more than any other commodity last year – before the war in Ukraine – and have continued to rise in 2022.


Courtesy of the United States Energy Information Administration

The war prohibits Ukraine, the breadbasket of the world, from producing and exporting wheat and other agricultural products. This is one of the reasons why food prices are rising.

Another is the high price of oil. The food industry depends on fossil fuels for processing, transportation and fertilizers, of which Russia is a world leader in exports. A study discovered that oil causes 64.17% of food price variance.

But electricity prices also play a role in food costs. The American food system uses more electricity than any other energy source. In fact, electricity represents 58% of the energy used in the food chain.

Food and agriculture companies can’t do much about the war in Ukraine or the global fossil fuel market, but they can manage their electricity prices to help offset some of the damage.

Microgrids are one way to achieve this. A range of food companies are already operating or developing microgrids. Here are some examples of projects:

Whole Foods redefined the idea of ​​the grocery store by giving it a new mission as a community refuge during an extended power outage. The store becomes a place not only to buy food, but also to charge cell phones and make that much-needed human connection when disaster turns lives upside down. To this end, Whole Foods has installed a flagship product micro-grid solar, wind and combined heat and power at a store in Brooklyn, New York. If everything else in the neighborhood goes dark, the Brooklyn store will stay lit and open.

Endurant Energy has entered the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) sector with an approximately $30 million microgrid project for Bluehouse Greenhouse, a company building a 62-acre high-tech greenhouse in southern California. Endurant (formerly GI Energy) will own, operate and maintain the 13.2 MW microgrid using an energy-as-a-service (EaaS) model. The project is Bluehouse’s first greenhouse. The company is also exploring sites in the southwest and northeast with the aim of starting work on three more greenhouses over the next three years, according to Shane Holland, a spokesman for the company.

The project includes AZZO’s automated spot market bidding system which allows the commodity market to generate revenue by buying and selling energy to the grid based on real-time pricing in the national electricity market.

Join us at Microgrid 2022: Microgrids as Climate Heroes for a special session “From Microgrid to Farm to Fork: New Energy Strategies in Agriculture,” on June 1 in Philadelphia, PA.

Scale Microgrid Solutions has brought a 1.75 MW microgrid online for a large indoor farm near Pittsburgh, PA. Scale Microgrid’s modular microgrid for Fifth Season, an indoor agriculture start-up, uses 160 kW of photovoltaic solar panels, 200 kW of lithium-ion batteries and a 1,200 kW natural gas generator equipped with advanced emissions control technology.

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Powering an anaerobic digester project with a renewable microgrid has transformed the economics of biogas at a newly commissioned plant in Wisconsin. The facility turns organic waste from more than 4,000 dairy cows into renewable natural gas and injects it into a pipeline for use as transportation fuel in California.

Concentric Power is building a 5 MW microgrid for Tasteful Selections, a Southern California company that grows and packs potatoes. The $12 million project combines 3.6 MW of firm cogeneration power with 120 KW of solar power and a 1.25 MW/625 kWh lithium-ion battery configuration. Concentric Power’s Microgrid Controller will integrate with Tasteful Selections’ Equipment Automation Platform to provide active and predictive load management.

Bimbo Bakeries USA, the maker of products such as Thomas’ English muffins, Arnold bread and pastries by Sara Lee and Entenmann, plans to install microgrids at six manufacturing plants over the next year with the help from GreenStruxure, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric.

Stop & Shop, a major retail chain in the Northeastern United States, announced today that it will install microgrids in 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts and New York. The microgrids will use Bloom Energy fuel cells. The combined electrical capacity of the 40 micro-grids is 10 MW. Microgrids, which operate 24/7, will ensure that electricity flows to stores even if the power grid suffers an outage. Hurricanes in the northeast sometimes knocked out power for two weeks. Grocery stores become essential for communities during such natural disasters.

The project will include a solar panel and natural gas generator with advanced emissions controls to help Fifth Season meet its goals of growing 500,000 pounds of lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula and herbs during his first year on his first commercial farm.


By Gregory Gerber/Shutterstock.com

The 16-acre Stone Edge Farm describes itself as a “demonstration farm of what is possible,” at the forefront of soil, water, air and energy conservation. Cover crops and intensive composting ensure soil and plant health, and monitoring technologies have cut water use in half. But Stone Edge says its most dramatic air and energy conservation results come from the Stone Edge Farm MicroGrid (SEFMG).

Butler Farms has recently increased its efforts not only to reduce odors and eliminate rainwater issues, but also to capture biogas for use as a renewable energy resource, as noted in a recent report that describes micro- North Carolina’s unique hog farm network.

The California Energy Commission awarded Frito-Lay a $3.5 million grant to build a solar microgrid at a food processing plant in a project the agency touts as a model for the industry. The microgrid will be installed at a snack food processing plant in Rancho-Cucamonga, California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the plant running during power outages.


By rblfmr/Shutterstock.com

A Victorian solar micro-grid and storage project aimed at helping Australian farmers tackle energy ‘pain points’ including rising electricity prices and unreliable supply, has won the support of the state government. The microgrid, comprising 51 kW of solar power and 137 kWh of battery storage capacity, will be developed by energy technology company SwitchDin and commercial microgrid developer Walnut Energy.

HEB was fortunate to have the microgrids up and running before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017 as the storm knocked out power for 300,000 Texas utility customers. Enchanted Rock uses a 24/7 network operations center to monitor the power grid, so the company knew when to isolate HEB microgrids from the main Houston power grid. When Harvey made landfall on the Gulf Coast, stores began to be powered by the onsite microgrid generators. Eighteen HEB stores received full emergency power for five consecutive days during the storm.

Scale Microgrid Solutions is financing and developing a power system for growing cannabis in Jessup, Maryland, near Baltimore. Built for Verano, a national cannabis brand, the facility will include a combined cooling, heat and power system with a 172 kW rooftop solar panel and 2 MW of microturbine generators paired with heat absorption chillers. 800 tonnes to capture waste heat.


Indoor cannabis operation. Photo by Canna Obscura/Shutterstock

California agricultural industry shows growing interest in microgrids as state power grid suffers power outages related to wildfires. Wineries, in particular, have embraced the technology, most recently Castello di Amorosa, which incorporated a 556 kWh battery storage microgrid into its 13th-century Tuscan-inspired architecture. The microgrid was built by 127 Energy, a renewable energy project development company, in partnership with Centrica Business Solutions, an integrated energy solutions company, and inverter supplier Sungro.

Chick-fil-A restaurants to install test microgrids ahead of possible nationwide rollout

Ahead of a possible nationwide rollout, SolMicroGrid, an energy-as-a-service microgrid company, is setting up microgrids at three Chick-fil-A restaurants in California. Restaurants in San Diego, Santa Rosa and Stockton will beta test the SolMicroGrid system designed for 5,000 square foot buildings, according to the company, which is backed by Morgan Stanley Energy Partners.

You can also listen to this webinar: Microgrids for the food industrywatch this video discussion from our October 2021 conference Microgrid California: Microgrids for the Agriculture and Food Industries and read this white paper Solving your energy challenges has never been easier for agriculture and food processors.

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