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

Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle company, has launched a new initiative called From farm to fleet that will allow the company to source solar power from farms in California’s Central Valley. the Chronicle of San Francisco was the first to report the news that Cruise is directly purchasing renewable energy credits from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight Companies to help power its fleet of fully electric autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

Cruise recently obtained a permit to transport passengers in his test vehicles in San Francisco without a human security operator behind the wheel. The company is also accelerating its march to 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 certainly a boon for the state’s work in advancing renewables, while also providing jobs and financial opportunities for local businesses, Cruise does not have a charity here.

California’s Independent System Operator Has Been Soliciting Power Producers across the western United States to sell more megawatts to the state this summer in anticipation of heat waves that will boost electricity demand and potentially cause blackouts. Power supplies are already lower than expected due to droughts, outages and delays in bringing new sources of power generation to the grid, causing a reduction in hydroelectric generation. To ensure that the California network can handle the massive increase in fleet size that Cruise is planning, it appears the company has no choice but to find creative ways to beef up the network. Cruise, however, is adamant that he has higher goals than securing power from whatever source is available.

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

With droughts continuing to affect 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 environmental nonprofit Nature Conservancy. That’s why Cruise saw the logic in reaching out to Central Valley farmers now.

“Farm to Fleet is a vehicle to rapidly reduce urban transportation emissions while generating new income for California’s leading renewable energy farmers,” said Rob Grant, Cruise’s vice president of social affairs and global impact, in a blog post.

Cruise is paying negotiated contract rates with farms through its clean energy partner, BTR Energy. The company does not disclose the costs, but says it is paying neither more nor less than it would pay to use other forms of renewable energy credits (RECs). RECs occur when a renewable energy source generates one megawatt-hour of electricity and transmits it to the grid. According to Cruise, Sundale has installed 2 megawatts of solar capacity to power its 200,000 square feet of cold storage, and Moonlight has installed a combined 3.9 MW of solar panels and two battery storage systems for its sorting and storage facilities. So when Cruise buys credits from these farms, he can say that a specific amount of his electricity use came 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 how many RECs he plans to buy from the farms, but says it will be enough to power his San Francisco fleet.

“While solar power still flows through the same grid, cruise ships buy and eventually ‘retire’ the renewable energy credits generated by solar panels on farms,” ​​Wert said. “Through the data we submit to the California Air Resources Board on a quarterly basis, we withdraw an amount of REC equal to the amount of electricity we use to charge our vehicles.”

Wert says that using fully renewable energy is really profitable for Cruise in California because of the Low carbon fuel standard, which is designed to decrease the carbon intensity of transportation fuels in the state and provide more low-carbon alternatives. Cruise owns and operates all of its own electric vehicle charging ports, so you can earn credits based on your electricity’s carbon intensity score and the amount of power delivered. Cruise can then sell his credits to other companies looking to reduce their footprints and comply with regulations.

Aside from the practicalities, Cruise aims to set a standard for the industry and create demand for renewable energy, thereby incentivizing more people and businesses to create it.

“Transportation is responsible for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we announced our Clean Mile Challenge in February, where we challenge the rest of the audiovisual industry to report how many miles they travel on renewable energy each year.” said value. “We hope that others will follow our example.”



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