Cruise buys solar power from California farmers to power its electric and autonomous fleet – TechCrunch


Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving car company, has launched a new initiative called Farm to Fleet that will allow the company to source solar power from farms in California’s Central Valley. The San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report that Cruise was purchasing renewable energy credits directly from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight Companies to power its fleet of all-electric autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

Cruise recently obtained a permit to carry passengers in its test vehicles to San Francisco without a human security operator behind the wheel. The company is also stepping up its march towards commercialization with a recent $ 5 billion line of credit from GM Financial to pay for hundreds of Origin electric and autonomous vehicles. While this partnership with California farmers is undoubtedly a boon to the state’s work to advance renewable energy while providing jobs and financial opportunities for local businesses, Cruise does not run a charity here. .

The California Independent System Operator has called on power producers in the western United States to sell more megawatts to the state this summer in anticipation of heat waves that will increase demand for electricity and could cause power outages. ‘electricity. Power supplies are already lower than expected due to droughts, blackouts and delays in bringing new sources of power to the grid, resulting in reduced hydropower production. To ensure the California Network can handle the massive increase in fleet size Cruise is planning, it appears the company has no choice but to find creative ways to strengthen the network. Cruise, however, firmly maintains that he has more ambitious goals than securing energy from all available sources.

“It’s all about us doing the right thing for our cities and communities and fundamentally transforming transportation for the better,” Ray Wert, a spokesperson for Cruise, told TechCrunch.

As droughts continue to plague California farmers, converting farmland to solar farms is a potential way to help the state meet its climate change goals, according to a report from the nonprofit Nature Conservancy environmental. That’s why Cruise saw the logic of approaching Central Valley farmers now.

“Farm to Fleet is a way to quickly reduce emissions from urban transportation while generating new income for California farmers leaders in renewable energy,” said Rob Grant, vice president of social affairs and global impact at Cruise, in a blog post.

Cruise pays contract rates negotiated with farms through its clean energy partner, BTR Energy. The company does not disclose the costs, but says it pays no more or less than what it would pay for using other forms of renewable energy credits (RECs). RECs are produced when a renewable energy source generates one megawatt hour of electricity and transmits it to the grid. According to Cruise, Sundale installed 2 megawatts of solar capacity to power its 200,000 square feet of cold storage, and Moonlight installed a combined 3.9 MW of solar panels and a dual-battery storage system for its sorting facilities and storage. So when Cruise buys credits from these farms, he is able to tell that a specific amount of his electricity use is from a renewable source. RECs are unique and tracked, so it’s clear where they came from, what kind of energy they used and where they went. Cruise did not share the number of CERs he plans to purchase from farms, but says that will be enough to fuel his San Francisco fleet.

“While solar power is still flowing on the same grid, Cruise buys and then ‘retires’ the renewable energy credits generated by solar panels on farms,” Wert said. “Thanks to the data we submit quarterly to the California Air Resources Board, we are removing a number of CERs equal to the amount of electricity we used to charge our vehicles.”

Cruise is also working with BTR Energy to finalize a CER supply for its Arizona operations, including its delivery pilot with Walmart.

Wert says using fully renewable energy is actually profitable for Cruise in California because of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels in the state and deliver more. low carbon alternatives. Cruise owns and operates all of its own electric vehicle charging ports, which allows it to generate credits based on the electricity’s carbon intensity score and the amount of power supplied. Cruise can then sell its credits to other businesses looking to reduce their footprint and comply with regulations.

Along with the practicalities, Cruise aims to set an industry standard and create a demand for renewable energy, prompting more people and businesses to create it.

Aram Shumavon, CEO of grid analytics startup Kevala, said Cruise should be applauded for the partnership.

“What Cruise seems to be trying to recognize is that there is a carbon intensity associated with the electricity they use, and they compensate for that in some way,” Shumavon told TechCrunch. “There’s a whole category of carbon accounting, called Scope 3, that tries to figure out how much carbon the supply chain you use to deliver your service actually involves, and Cruise is probably, like a very deliberate decision, in getting out in front of their Scope 3 requirements.

Shumavon said that by quantifying the total carbon intensity of business activity, companies become more responsible and can then drive change by asking suppliers to source from renewable energy. For example, an automaker could ask its aluminum supplier to source only from an area with hydroelectric power instead of coal power, which would ultimately reduce the carmaker’s carbon intensity.

“Transportation is responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we announced our Clean Mile Challenge in February, where we challenged the rest of the audiovisual industry to declare how many kilometers they cover each year with renewable energies, ”says Wert. “We hope others will follow our example.”

This article has been updated to reflect new information provided by Cruise, as well as expert commentary from Aram Shumavon, CEO of Kevala.


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