Power Outage? Officials are Hoping to Prevent That with Microgrids

Jan 29, 2015

Ever since the black-out of 2003, you’ve heard about necessary improvements for the U.S. power grid.  State-wide power officials came to Syracuse Thursday to get communities ‘plugged in’ to what could keep buildings with critical services like hospitals, police and fire departments on-line during those outages.  

Director of NY Prize and NYSERDA Strategic Advisor Micah Kotch meets with citizens of Syracuse
Credit John Smith / WAER

NYSERDA will soon open a $40 million competition across the state to see if a microgrid can be constructed in ten Regional Economic Development Council regions.  Director of NY Prize and NYSERDA Strategic Advisor Micah Kotch says chances are they have a head start.

"Generally, they would be able to use the existing utility infrastructure, the existing wires in the ground. You may need some additional generation sources like combined heat and power or solar. You might need some storage and then you need some smarts. You probably need some controller technology."

 Kotch adds those controllers would allow the grid to switch back and forth from the standard power grid over to a community microgrid, when needed.  SUNY ESF President Quentin Wheeler says that he found out about the security aspect of the grid.

"Not only is it more efficient to create and consume locally, but it also can be designed in such a way that it's more secure in the event of some sort of a natural disaster or other sort of disaster that brings down the larger group."

Power officials speak to the community of Syracuse regarding their new plans.
Credit John Smith / WAER

The power technology concept also builds upon a community's existing green infrastructure such as solar power or buildings with combined heat and power system.  SUNY ESF’s Gateway Center generates 70% of its own heat and 20% of its own electricity.  The microgrids also are able to connect to the main grid where it can also be a source of buying and selling electricity.  To learn more about the microgrid competition, which also includes businesses, go to nyserda.NY.gov/prize.