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Cruise, the self-driving car company under General Motors, 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.
Curise secured a permit to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles in San Francisco without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The company is also increasing up its march to commercialization with a recent $5 billion of credits from GM Financial to pay for hundreds of electric and autonomous Origin vehicles. While this partnership with California farmers is undoubtedly a boon to the state’s work in progressing renewable energies while also providing jobs and financial opportunities to local businesses, Cruise isn’t running a charity here.
The California Independent System Operator has been soliciting power producers across the western United States to sell more megawatts to the state in this summer in regard to boost electricity demand and potential cause blackouts. Due to droughts the power supplies are lower than expected, outages and delays in bringing new energy generation sources to the gird, causing reduced hydroelectric generation. To ensure California’s grid can handle the massive increase in fleet size Cruise is planning, it seems that the company has no choice but to find creative ways to bolster the grid. Cruise, however, is holding firm that it’s got loftier goals than securing the energy from whatever sources are available.
Due to droughts continuing to plague California farmers, converting farmland to solar farms is a more convenient way to help the state meet its climate change targets. That is the reason why Cruises saw the logic in approaching Central Valleys farmers now.
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Cruise is paying negotiated contract rates with the farms through its clean energy partner, BTR Energy. The company isn’t disclosing costs, but says it’s paying 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 passes it on to the grid.
According to Cruise, Sundale has installed 2 megawatts of solar capacity to power their 200,000 square footage of cold storage, and Moonlight has installed a combined 3.9 MW of solar arrays and two-battery storage system for its sorting and storage facilities. So when Cruise buys credits from these farms, it’s able to say that a specific amount of its 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 it plans to purchase from the farms, but says it will be enough to power its San Francisco fleet.