California Company Developing 2.5 MW Microgrid for Hemp Campus

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Mavericks Renewable Energy is preparing to set up a carbon-negative microgrid for the San Benito Hemp Campus, which includes 300,000 square feet of warehouses for growing seeds and curing and processing hemp in San Benito County, California.

The company is tapping into a growing niche in the microgrid market: hemp and cannabis facilities, which require power 24/7 to keep their plants healthy. Hemp will be grown on 200 acres at the site. 

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San Benito Hemp Campus. Courtesy of Mavericks Renewable Energy

The project’s first phase will include 2 MW of solar and 500 kW of energy storage capacity, according to Bill Shevlin, Mavericks CEO.

Hemp waste will be converted to energy in a biodigester and will also be made into “biochar,” a form of charcoal that can be added to soil to increase carbon sequestration and improve soil health, according to Shevlin.

The project will use microgrid and virtual power plant controls as well as internet of things monitoring to track energy use, temperature, humidity and energy load, Shevlin said.

Set to start operating in the second quarter next year, the project is being built in Pacific Gas & Electric’s service territory. The utility this year cut power to more than a million customer accounts in a series of planned outages designed to prevent utility equipment from starting wildfires.

Microgrids make sense for cannabis and hemp facilities, which are highly energy intensive, according to Shevlin. The plants depend on consistent light and can die during power outages. Also, if the power goes out in production facilities, equipment must be cleared out and the product thrown away before the facility can be restarted, he said.

Mavericks will sell electricity to the hemp facility under a standard power purchase agreement. Shevlin is in talks with a community choice aggregator to see if it will buy excess energy produced at the hemp facility. 

The company is developing a similar project with Golden Seed, a cannabis company that is bringing 1 million square feet of cultivation facilities online in the first half next year. Mavericks and its partners have secured sites in Indiana, North Carolina and Mexico for similar processing and manufacturing facilities, Shevlin said.

Mavericks’ goal with cannabis and hemp companies is to provide them cost-effective energy capital, renewable energy and microgrids along with verification of their sustainability and carbon dioxide use and sequestration, Shevlin said.

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