Santa Rosa Chick-fil-A Solar Micro-Grid Part of Distributed Power Movement Amid Grid Problems in California


Amid a season of planned power outages caused by wildfires, the Chick-fil-A location in Santa Rosa will soon become one of three of its 2,700 stores nationwide to install a solar system called micro-grid.

A few years ago, franchise owner Chris Medford requested that the head office provide the option of keeping the lights on at its Mendocino Avenue location when Pacific Gas & Electric called for power outages for public safety ( PSPS) during red flag warnings.

Medford gave three distinct reasons why he sued the business with SolMicroGrid, an Atlanta-area-based energy services company that installs and maintains these backup power solutions.

“First, being a good steward of the environment is our main goal,” he said, adding one way to avoid being “vulnerable to PG&E shutdown threats” like any other. “We also wanted to prove that it is possible.

The College Park, Georgia-based fast food company specializing in chicken sandwiches went with the idea. The Sonoma County facility is slated for the coming weeks after the Stockton facility. The third facility is located in San Diego.

Medford, who has worked for the company for a decade and has run his franchise for six years, estimates he will save 40 to 50% on his PG&E bill of an average of $ 20,000 per month. The kitchen runs on gas and electricity.

When the sun is shining during the day, the micro-grid system through solar panels and a computer platform uses, captures and stores energy. When the power is cut, the restaurant continues to operate using a generator. The microgrid operates as a centralized and autonomous system.

“Our California operators have asked for help in dealing with the rising cost of energy,” said Stephanie Armistead, Sustainability Program Manager at Chick-fil-A. “At any time, Chick-fil-A operators might have to lock freezers, buy dry ice, and decide whether to shut down the restaurant when high winds damage power lines or a heat wave puts too much. pressure on the existing network. . “

Since the pandemic, much of the restaurant’s revenue has come from customers using drive-thru, take-out and third-party delivery – but Medford hopes to switch to more in-store dining.

“When the power goes out, the system starts up and keeps them running,” said Matt Ward, co-founder of SolMicroGrid who has a background in civil engineering.

SolMicroGrid, which formed in 2019, uses photovoltaic panels that harvest energy on sunny days and store excess energy in the system for other times.

The Chick-fil-A franchise pays the utility company each month from the portion of the savings it receives. The facility is funded by a capital investment SolMicroGrid received from Morgan Stanley. The company declined to disclose this capital investment or an example of what a 5,000 square foot facility would cost to install.

“We really want to help the Earth,” Joyce Bone, co-founder of SolMicroGrid, told the Business Journal.

The company is trying to fill a unique niche for smaller operations like Chick-fil-A’s 5,000 square foot stores. Many business operations that choose to opt for solar microgrid solutions are typically larger facilities, noted the co-founders of the power supplier.

“This new system will allow us to reduce energy costs while helping us continue to serve our customers even in the event of a power outage,” April Farage, operator of the Chick-fil-A Stockton store, said in a statement. “This solution will allow us to provide a place where community guests can gather, have a meal and plug in when electricity is not available in their home. “

Additionally, the Stockton location operator said it is saving on utility bills, which during Central Valley’s hot summer, can increase by 70%.

Sa taste of green energy

Hospitality companies looking for alternative energy options are spreading across North Bay.

The Marin Suites Hotel announced on September 27 that it was completing a three-year project in August to install a solar power system. The accommodation facility owned by Springboard Hospitality said it was the first hotel in Marin County to run entirely on clean energy. Its electricity, air conditioning, heating, laundry service and swimming pool are all solar powered.

The management of the 101-room boutique hotel and suites, a staple of Corte Madera for about 60 years, believed the energy solution will reduce its carbon footprint by an amount equivalent to planting more than 80 acres of trees and offsets 15 million miles traveled by an average vehicle, hotel management said.

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