Building a Resilient Energy System, One Local Grid at a Time 3

Climate change and the global energy challenge may seem daunting, but much can be done on the local level to build more resilient and efficient energy systems. The Village of Ossining is one of many communities working to take control of their energy futures.

Clinic Energy Resilience Team consult prior to Ossining Village Board meeting. From left: Carlos Daniel Villamayor Ledesma, Nadya Lani Hall, James Ward, and Sara Moriarty.

Members of the clinic Energy Resilience Team huddle prior to Ossining Village Board meeting. From left: Carlos Daniel Villamayor Ledesma, Nadya Lani Hall, James Ward, and Sara Moriarty.

On April 2, the Village formally adopted a resolution, developed by the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic, that lays the groundwork for establishing a community microgrid.

A microgrid is a resilient energy supply and distribution system that communities can use to increase their energy reliability and cut costs. Using combined heat and power and  renewable-energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines in the immediate area, towns are able to create a power grid that, if the need arises, can work in isolation. In a regional blackout, for example, a town would be able to be self-sufficient — heating homes, powering lights, and storing excess energy. With nearly twice the efficiency of the main grid, microgrids can reduce energy costs, as well.

Such systems are now a priority in New York State. On January 8th, 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his State of the State Address the launch of NYPrize, a $40-million project to develop 10 municipal microgrids in order to build more resilient communities.

The project is a response to recent extreme weather events, most notable Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, which left wide regions without power for extended periods. Ossining is a prime candidate for the grant given its location on the shores of the lower Hudson River estuary. The area is subject to tidal flooding and other threats to critical infrastructure in a big storm.

Our clinic is working with the Village of Ossining and Pace Energy and Climate Center to create Energy Resiliency Strategy 2014 – a plan for addressing the technical and regulatory hurdles in developing a microgrid. The adopted resolution can be found here ‎.

The Energy Resiliency Strategy 2014  will include information on the following key points for a microgrid plan:

1. Locating critical infrastructure and developing ways to balance energy demand to distribute power use among office buildings, residential complexes, hospitals and schools.

2. Identifying sources of renewable power, particularly wind turbines and solar panels.

3. Planning for energy storage to help balance supply and demand given the variable nature of renewable electricity sources. Some options are banks of used Chevy Volt batteries and banks of new batteries.

4. Review energy monitoring techniques. Two examples are The Energy Detective and Grid IQ Microgrid Control System.

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