Microgrid contest to pay $40 million for 10 or more deployments
January 10, 2014

The New York State Smart Grid Consortium (NYSSGC) yesterday applauded Gov Andrew Cuomo, D, for emphasizing the importance and urgency of upgrading New York’s electric grid, particularly in advancing community-based microgrid solutions. Cuomo made a State of the State speech Wednesday in Albany where he addressed the achievements of his government in the three years since he took office and declared goals for the future.

NYSSGC was also reacting to the governor’s press conference with VP Joe Biden Wednesday where he unveiled his “Reimagining New York for a New Reality” strategy that included “hardening” the state’s grid and launching “NY Prize,” a $40 million competition to help build community-scale microgrids for areas with about 40,000 residents.

The grid part of that strategy includes spending $1.4 billion to harden the grid in various ways including moving some 500 miles of overhead power lines underground, elevating vulnerable substations, expanded tree-trimming and raised power lines for newly elevated homes and creating a new outage response system, the governor’s office said.

How much of that money will be used on smart grid-enabled technology is not known and probably not yet decided – and NYSSGC Executive Director James Gallagher plans to talk to the state’s utilities to make sure they consider this opportunity to use smart grid effectively in the upgrades, he told us in an interview yesterday. The rest of that interview, where he discussed not only his group’s efforts in New York but his recent work with a European Union program, is set to be published Monday or Tuesday.

Microgrids can run in tandem with existing power supply during normal conditions, the governor’s office noted, but will disconnect and operate as an independent power system to keep the lights on during an emergency.

The “plan is propelling New York’s storm preparation into the 21st century,” the governor’s office quoted Kevin Law, CEO of the Long Island Assn. “The creation of 10 microgrids that can operate independently of our normal grid will serve as a reinforcement in communities that have no power.”

“Community grids protect people, businesses and infrastructure from the devastation of extreme weather and from extended power outages as were experienced following Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee,” Gallagher said yesterday in prepared remarks. He took over running the group in April (SGT,Apr-29) and was previously senior manager for strategic planning at NYISO after spending 21 years on staff at the New York PSC.

“The power grid of the future will provide more flexibility and choices for consumers and Governor Cuomo’s NY Prize competition will be a catalyst for the grid’s transformation,” he added. The community-based microgrid approach is an innovative way to address a number of challenges and new developments facing New York’s electrical infrastructure, Gallagher said.

Ultimately, it can be the means to boost reliability and give local communities more control over their energy systems while allowing for the adoption of clean and efficient distributed energy sources such as solar or combined heat and power. It can also be the conduit for integration of an EV charging infrastructure, which has been another priority of the Cuomo administration, he added.

“The leadership of the Governor and his Chairman of Energy and Finance, Richard Kauffman, have been essential in developing a coherent pathway to efficiently and effectively build a 21st century smart electric grid from which all New Yorkers can reap the benefits,” added NYSSGC Chairman Robert Catell in prepared remarks. He attended the Governor’s State of the State address.

Weather has changed

“After Superstorm Sandy, Irene and Lee, the New York State as we know it faces a different reality. We had more storms this year in the central part of the state and for government officials, it is an entirely new challenge,” Cuomo said.

“After what we went through, we literally have to reimagine New York because all the rules, all the theories are out the window,” he added.

Cuomo plans to start by installing what he called the nation’s most advanced weather detection system, “because early detection will literally save lives and we haven’t been getting the correct information early enough.” The plan included creating the nation’s first college on emergency preparedness and homeland security and hardening the transit system, repairing and replacing over 100 bridges and other measures.

In all, 100,000 infrastructure projects are to be done in the infrastructure part of the plan, costing over $16 billion. It will be “the largest reconstruction program the state has ever undertaken,” he added, and he cited a Congressional delegation that helped raise $60 billion after Hurricane Sandy for making the funds available.

Biden praises example

“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future, is exactly what we have to do in this country,” VP Joe Biden said during their press conference this week. “You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country and I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here.”

New York suffered nine presidentially declared disasters in the three years since Cuomo took office and a key theme of the state’s rebuilding program is that extreme weather is a new reality, the governor’s office noted.

The state presents special challenges in protecting its critical systems and infrastructure as much of the critical infrastructure in New York City, for example – transit and electric systems in particular – is underground and susceptible to seawater, the governor’s office noted. Long Island communities, power systems, wastewater systems and fuel terminals are built along the coastline.

In Upstate New York, communities and infrastructure are often built along waterways vulnerable to increasingly severe flooding, the governor’s office added.

Gas station DG included

The governor’s plan includes FUEL NY – a $47 million “comprehensive gas station backup power plan, making New York the first state in the nation to provide comprehensive gas station back-up power on critical routes,” the governor’s office said. The state made over $25 million available to gas stations to meet a state requirement that every downstate gas station within a half-mile of a highway exit or a hurricane evacuation route have a generator in place within 24 hours of losing power.

That makes about 1,000 stations that will be equipped with backup power before the governor extends the program statewide to cover all gas stations within a half mile of critical highways and evacuation routes Upstate, his office said.

© 2014 Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. IMPORTANT: This article was reproduced from the January 13, 2014 issue of Smart Grid Today with the limited permission of the owner. To view the full story on Smart Grid Today’s website, please visit: http://www.smartgridtoday.com/articles/10317-new-york-gov-cuomo-to-spend-14-billion-in-recovery-money-on-grid.