Gallagher underscored at New York Energy Week in June the urgency to build a more robust grid post-Sandy, while also advancing innovative microgrid technologies in the region.
“The Consortium is working with its utility members to establish microgrid projects both in New York City and in upstate New York,” he said. “These action-oriented projects will demonstrate the advances that have been made in power technology, and most importantly, they will show customers tangible benefits and what the smart grid and the utility of the future will truly mean to them. New York should and will lead, and is poised to be recognized as the innovation center of the nation in the field of power research.”
Adaptation, not mitigation
Spurred by Sandy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is undergoing a yearlong study on the role of microgrids in providing mission-critical backup power generation. The microgrids NYSERDA is envisioning would not necessarily generate electricity year-round but would only come online in the event of an extended power outage, said Mark Torpey, director of research at NYSERDA.
The state group will also be evaluating a variety of energy technologies, from CHP plants to diesel generators to renewable energy sources, Torpey said. Despite the climate change mitigation benefits offered by low-carbon energy sources like solar and wind, these power plants may be too expensive or too big to install in New York City and the surrounding areas, he added.
"I wouldn't want to give the impression there's a significant potential for microgrids in and of themselves to provide significant [climate] mitigation; it's not their primary purpose. It's more on the adaptation side," he said.
Last month, NYSERDA also closed a solicitation for $10 million in support of research and engineering studies designed to improve the reliability and efficiency of the electric power delivery system in New York state.
Con Edison submitted a proposal to establish a showcase microgrid project in Cortlandt, N.Y., which was severely hit by Superstorm Sandy.
"Running electric grids safely and reliably is what we're good at, and we want to be a part of this implementation," said Troy Devries, director for research and development at Con Edison.
"In addition to that, we see this as an opportunity to transform the grid," he added. "The next phase of the grid is probably going to be a more interactive relationship, not just a one-way feed, both for energy transfers and communication transfers, and control is probably going to be going both ways and lots of different directions."
NYSSGC is also working with National Grid to identify potential microgrid projects in the western part of the state, as well as Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.
Costs and payback of not going dark
Stand-alone microgrids with distributed generation systems are very expensive and logistically challenging to install. But valuing both the direct and indirect benefits microgrids provide could make for an attractive business case, according to Louis Schoen, director of development at the energy consulting firm SourceOne Inc.
In addition to the power outages and physical damage it caused, Sandy cost an estimated $5.7 billion in lost economic productivity. Operating microgrids could have reduced that burden, Schoen said. He added that cities and states may not want to risk losing out on future revenue by failing to fortify their power systems.
"If you are in a place that does not have consistent power and reliability, you're not a good place to be for business," he said. "If you are in a place like New York and you can't depend on your power grid, you move to New Jersey."