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Mainspring Energy to Deploy Biogas Fueled Linear Generator in Napa Microgrid

Mainspring Energy and PG&E just announced the deployment of a linear generator—a new mobile power generation technology utilizing renewable biogas to displace existing diesel generation—at PG&E’s Angwin distribution microgrid site in Napa County.  The linear generator will help ensure clean, reliable power during emergencies like heat waves, winter storms or earthquakes, and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.  The linear generator is connected to both PG&E’s electric and natural gas systems and will use biogas fuel that is renewably produced at another location.

Mainspring’s breakthrough technology, based on research originally conducted by the company’s co-founders at Stanford University, is designed to meet grid demands by delivering dispatchable, fuel-flexible power that substantially reduces cost and carbon today, while accelerating the transition to the net-zero carbon grid.  One of the unique characteristics of the 240-kilowatt Mainspring linear generator is that it can ramp up and down quickly to meet power load demands at a fraction of the emissions of reciprocating engine technologies.

“Extreme weather events and the rise of electrification are driving increasing demands on the electric grid for resiliency at affordable costs. At the same time, we need to be moving rapidly toward a net-zero-carbon grid,” said Mainspring CEO Shannon Miller. “Mainspring designed our platform to meet this challenge, and we’re proud that our product is now deployed to help PG&E and its customers to address these challenges and provide them with a cleaner, resilient, and affordable source of power.”

A linear generator—distinct from an engine, microturbine, or fuel cell—is a device that directly converts motion along a straight line into electricity using chemical or thermal energy. The design of Mainspring’s linear generator uses a low-temperature reaction of air and fuel to drive magnets through copper coils to efficiently produce electricity. This innovative design, combined with the company’s proprietary adaptive control software, enables high efficiency, near-zero NOx emissions, full dispatchability, and seamless switching between fuels.

The product achieves low capital and maintenance costs through use of standard materials, only two moving parts, and an innovative air bearing system that eliminates the need for oil. It operates without the use of complex mechanical systems or expensive catalysts.

Driven by its vision of the affordable, reliable, net-zero carbon grid of the future, Mainspring is delivering a new category of power generation — the linear generator — that delivers onsite, dispatchable, fuel-flexible power at low cost. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Mainspring is backed by top-tier venture, strategic, and financial investors. www.mainspringenergy.com.

CA Board of Forestry Adopts Biomass Utilization Plan

On November 4, the California Board of Forestry adopted a forest biomass utilization plan that recommends many actions to put California’s extensive forest waste to beneficial re-use, including numerous bioenergy recommendations.  Some of the most important recommendations related to bioenergy are:

  • Consolidated permitting
  • State procurement of bioenergy
  • Inclusion of forest biomass in microgrid tariffs
  • Allocating 20% of electricity and gas R&D funding (EPIC and PIER) to forest biomass, including biomass to hydrogen projects
  • Adopting pipeline standards for biomass and hydrogen
  • Incentivizing both electricity and pipeline interconnection for forest biomass projects
  • Incentivizing use of forest biomass under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard
  • Increasing BioMAT category 3 (forest waste) to 250 MW and allowing Community Choice Aggregators (CCA’s) and publicly owned utilities to participate in the program
  • Requiring a portion of new RPS power to be baseload and flexible generation

Read:  Joint Institute Wood and Biomass Utilization Recommendations

CalMatters: CA Needs Bioenergy and Green Hydrogen for Reliability

CalMatters has published an opinion piece by BAC’s Executive Director that highlights the need for bioenergy and green hydrogen to maintain a reliable and renewable power grid.  The piece underscores the importance of bioenergy and green hydrogen to complement solar, wind and batteries, to provide long duration energy storage and flexible generation power, and to provide renewable fuel for microgrids and backup generators.  The piece makes clear that California can have a 100 percent renewably powered grid, but needs both bioenergy and green hydrogen to ensure that power supplies remain reliable.

See the CalMatters piece here.

BAC Comments on CPUC Microgrid Proposal

The CPUC’s Staff Proposal on Track 2 of the microgrid proceeding was very disappointing.  The Commission failed to propose requirements for microgrids to include a diverse portfolio of energy and storage sources, to transition to renewable fuels and cleaner technologies, to require long-duration energy storage, or to move beyond pilot scale programs.  BAC’s comments on the Staff Proposal urge the Commission to include bioenergy and other forms of baseload and flexible generation power and to add requirements for long-duration storage (which biogas and biomethane can provide), to move away from fossil fuels, and to expand the program beyond pilot projects.

See BAC Comments on Microgrid Track 2 Staff Proposal

CPUC Launches Microgrid Track 2

The CPUC is required by state law  to adopt a microgrid tariff and other policies to support microgrid development.  The CPUC recently adopted a decision implementing several short-term actions that are intended to expand the use of microgrids during the 2020 wildfire season.  The Commission also just issued a Staff Proposal on Track 2 of the proceeding, which addresses the need for a statewide microgrid tariff, expanded use of micrgrids to maintain power for essential services and other issues.

See CPUC’s Track 2 Microgrid Proposal

BAC Comments on CPUC Microgrid Proposal

BAC’s comments on the CPUC Staff Proposal on Microgrids focus on the need to include bioenergy and biogas in microgrids.  Relying on solar and batteries alone limits the duration that microgrids can operate.   Bioenergy can extend the duration of microgrids and make them much more reliable by providing a fuel source for backup generators, flexible generation that can fill in around solar and batteries, energy storage, and other grid services.

See R.19-09-009 BAC Comments on ALJ Ruling and Staff Proposal