San Ramon, Cal., February 22, 2019 – MBS Engineering, a natural gas engineering contractor, has seen a dramatic uptick in demand for natural gas-fed on-site power generation, in recent months. Rising power demands for the hemp industry growers, coupled with Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy declaration and a strained electrical grid, have many analysts predicting rising electrical costs for utility electric customers. MBS would be offering a gas-powered alternative, utilizing pre-existing gas lines, to deliver electrical power at lower cost – surprisingly – with a smaller carbon footprint.
A gas turbine (sometimes called a microturbine) is truck-sized power station that sits at the location of a growing operation, and which runs solely on natural gas. Inside, the combustion of gas spins a turbine that powers an electric generator, creating electricity. Through a process called ‘cogeneration’, the particulate-free ‘waste’ heat can be gathered with a recuperpator, and used directly to warm a space, or – incredibly – turned into refrigeration; the net result is a power delivery solution that is 90% efficient, compared to 30% efficient for grid electric. Since about half of California’s grid electric power is generated from coal, which produces more CO2 than natural gas, a gas turbine is more environmentally friendly than grid electric.
Energy commissions in many states, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, Colorado, and Oregon, have proposed or issued advisories or restrictions to manage the energy demands of hemp growers. The problem of electrical power scarcity has only been compounded by the recent nation-wide legalization of hemp, which has a variety of uses, fibers that can be used in paper or clothing, construction to CBD pain-killers.
“Hemp growers are paying $150,000 a month for 1.3 megawatts of power. We can deliver power at about half that – turbine financing and gas combined. All of it. It sells itself.”, says MBS Engineering President, Brian James.
The strain on the electric infrastructure posed by hemp industry extends beyond the San Francisco Bay Area and PG&E – which received unwanted attention for the Paradise, California, fires last year – or even counties typically linked to types of legal growing operations, like Humboldt and Mendocino. The California Department of Food & Agriculture reports that, last year, Santa Barbara County led the state for the newly-legalized growing license applications, and approvals. California has close to twenty types of cultivation licenses, for everything from small-time growers, to large greenhouse and even larger, outdoor, grow operations. It is for these larger, hugely profitable, operations that hemp crops draw the most power. Growers need incandescent lights for visibility and UV lights to grow indoors; humidifiers, HVAC, dryers, curing, and in some cases automation and processing machines. The aging electric utility infrastructure is not typically up to meeting the considerable power demand for this growing industry. A gas turbine the size of an Airstream can produce between 250 kilowatts and 1.3 megawatt; for context. this is enough electricity to power between 250 and 1,300 homes.
In 2018, The Motley Fool reported that PG&E’s power woes would ‘decimate’ California’s hemp growing industry. Similar problems have surfaced in New Jersey, as PowerMag reported last year. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently reported that many growers are forced to get creative to meet power needs, including experimentation with LEDbased lightings systems. In California, many larger growers expect to simply be turned down by the electric utility, especially for legally and financially embattled companies like PG&E.
“Natural gas is more disaster-resistant than electric because power lines are exposed and there are bypass lines in buried gas systems, to prevent outages in a disaster.” James continues. “Natural gas is like the hybrid car of the fossil fuel world, which is why they use it for buses in polluted cities: it burns much cleaner than the coal that powers a large portion of utility-provided electricity.”, says MBS Engineering Sr. Engineer, Dan Whaley.
Contact: Kristen Shelbourne, MBS Engineering, Inc. at (925) 334-7200 or [email protected]