Monthly Archives

October 2023

Not Just Cars: Solar Power + Microgrids

We do a lot of work with EVs with Recharge America, but the world of electrification keeps expanding all the time. We’re doing a series of blog posts to explore some of the non-car ways that electrified equipment can be incorporated into your daily life. The next in this series is below: solar-powered microgrids. See the others if you missed any: lawn care equipment

When we talk about solar power, we’re often referring to either a single home being powered by their own rooftop panels or a large array that’s generating large amounts of electricity to transmit back into the overall electrical grid. However, increasingly, solar power is being deployed in a range of less-common contexts in innovative ways.

You may have seen, for example, solar-powered trash compactors in a downtown area or solar-powered traffic and information signs along a highway.

One of Trystar’s products: a solar-powered mobile generator

One of our most recent events in Faribault, MN, was hosted at Trystar, a manufacturer of electrical distribution and storage components. They recently expanded their facility, and in doing so, they incorporated a large solar array on the roof that allows them to operate their own microgrid. Watch their video below that shows time-lapse of the construction and result. Their microgrid provides nearly all of their primary power needs for the whole facility. At left you can see a mobile solar-powered generator, which they’ve developed as a product offering. Trystar is not only taking responsibility for their own power needs but also providing solutions for others’ power challenges. But let’s back up a step and talk about microgrids for a moment.

A microgrid refers to power that can be generated and consumed within a closed circuit and operate independently of the larger electrical grid. For example, traffic signs attached to a solar panel would be a very small example of a microgrid: the panel

A small solar panel directly attached to a pole along a road can power small traffic signs like this one, which is being used to detect the speed of passing cars

generates all the energy the sign needs, which eliminates the need for cables or electricity delivery to the sign’s location. Trystar’s microgrid, however, operates at a much larger scale, powering much of their primary energy usage. What’s particularly promising about combining microgrids with solar panels is the ability to take a building or even a whole block of buildings off the electrical grid altogether as needed. PLACE, a nonprofit community developer, envisions incorporating anaerobic food waste with solar panels to power their entire live/work communities. In places where the electrical grid can’t keep up with demand — like when there’s extreme heat in California or extreme cold in Texas — the ability to take load off the power grid not only benefits the consumers who are able to disconnect and rely only on their microgrids for power but also benefits average utility consumers who are dependent on the grid by reducing the overall demand. These kinds of innovations inspire us at Recharge America, and we’re excited and proud to work with partners like Trystar who are leading the way!


Not Just Cars: Lawn Equipment

We do a lot of work with EVs with Recharge America, but the world of electrification keeps expanding all the time. We’re doing a series of blog posts to explore some of the non-car ways that electrified equipment can be incorporated into your daily life. The first in this series is below: lawn equipment.

How do you clean up all the leaves falling in your yard? There’s the good, old-fashioned rake, which has been a classic fall chore for generations of kids. It’s time-consuming and hard work, though, making a leaf blower a tempting option. 

A selection of the equipment ACE Hardware brought for attendees to familiarize themselves with

Or maybe you have a landscaping company do a fall cleanup for you. If you do, they’ll almost certainly use a leaf blower, and more than likely their leaf blower will be gas-powered: you know, those loud “brrrrrrrrrrrrr” engine noises you hear throughout the neighborhood. But did you know that electrified versions of leaf blowers, weed whackers, chainsaws, and even riding lawn mowers are available? ACE Hardware has even created a separate section for electrified hardware within their stores.

Families enjoyed trying out the electric riding mower at the Faribault event

At our recent event in Faribault, MN, Faribault ACE Hardware brought a selection of these for attendees to check out: hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, even snowblowers! These tools are rechargeable, and some of them even have interchangeable batteries — allowing you to swap out a fully-charged battery pack in the middle of your yard work and keep going. Just as with cars, electrified lawn equipment drastically lowers carbon emissions, but it also dramatically cuts down on noise pollution.

Attendees at the Faribault event got hands-on experience with the equipment, including some family-friendly rides on the electric riding mower. There’s a very practical side to making the switch, though: more than 150 communities across the U.S. have banned gas-powered yard equipment — usually targeting leaf blowers — in recent years. Typically those bans are being phased in gradually over a number of years and professional landscapers are usually the first group required to comply. However, this fall if you decide to reach for a leaf blower, you might consider picking up an electric one. And snowblower season is right around the corner as well!

ElectriFUN Faribault: Not Your Average EVent!

Despite threatening weather in the morning, approximately 150 people turned out at Trystar in Faribault, MN, to experience EVs and energy solutions of all kinds!

All Energy Solar and Cooperative Energy Futures were just some of the exhibitors on hand

Trystar’s newly-expanded facility manufactures wires, conduit and other electrical components for the mass distribution of electricity. They incorporated a large solar array into the additional space, allowing them to operate and control their own microgrid on-site. They even manufacture portable, solar-powered generators and were generous enough to allow the food truck from Praeliza Fusion Kitchen to hook up to that during the event.

Trystar’s solar-powered mobile generator

There was an impressive lineup of both showcase and test drive vehicles, and 36 people had the opportunity to take a ride in an EV. The cars were not the only electrified options on display, though. In addition to Trystar’s solar generator, there was also an electric school bus and electric yard equipment. We were also thrilled to welcome Jean Wallace, Deputy Commissioner of MnDOT, who visited with a number of attendees and exhibitors, as well as taking a tour of Trystar.

Selection of electric lawn equipment

The success of the event can be attributed to the dedication of the steering committee, who championed the event across town. Many thanks go out to the City of Faribault, Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Trystar, Harry Brown’s Family Automotive, and South Central College – North Mankato for guiding the organization of the event and helping spread the word throughout Faribault and to our energy partner Xcel Energy