Liam Dohn| Sep 19, 2012

Connecticut kicks off microgrid pilot program

On Tuesday, the State of Connecticut held a public meeting to discuss its Microgrid Grant and Loan Pilot Program .

This is the first time I have heard of a utility receiving a legislative mandate to implement microgrid projects in their territory. The State of Connecticut's goals are clear: they want electricity to be "cheaper, cleaner and more reliable."

For those who don't know, last year Connecticut got hit by a large storm in August and an early Nor'easter in October. The storms resulted in:

  • Many residents without power for over five days.
  • Residents having a negative perception about the reliability of the state's electric grid.
  • Disappointment with the actions of the two main utilities in the state: Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI).

The result of the uproar was a bill signed by the Governor to improve the emergency preparedness of the state and directing the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to establish the microgrid program to support distributed energy generation for critical facilities. Of special note to other utilities, the bill also directed the public utilities commission to establish new emergency performance standards -- this is on top of the current requirement for CL&P and UI to submit Emergency Preparedness Plans for review and approval.

This program will be a great case study for microgrids. CL&P and UI are actively engaged with the program by providing developers with clear guidelines, interconnection processes and supporting DEEP with power systems expertise. I expect the projects will be a significant test -- both technically and economically -- for microgrids. State funding is limited to $15 million spread out over approximately 10 projects, so the microgrids will have to be economically viable without an ARRA-like funding cushion. The microgrids must also meet robust technical, operational and safety standards much like a utility.

If microgrids are to coexist within the current utility network we have today, this program will surely root out the unforeseen challenges and benefits to a broader microgrid deployment.

Given the requirement to be "cheaper, cleaner and more reliable," what do you think would be an ideal microgrid demonstration project for the state of Connecticut? (I.e. generation mix, types of critical loads served, ownership structure, etc.)


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4 comments

James T Caldwell| 574 days ago

The very concept of a microgrid is superior to monolithic super-grids. There is not an ideal combination of renewables, storage, demand response, and energy efficiency components. The whole concept is one of greater local flexibility and optimization. Each location must work out its own combination based on the resources at hand. The UC San Diego microgrid is one successful example. The key to optimal success is using local ingenuity, innovation and community involvement to identify the greatest ideas and processes for each local microgrid but with shared learnings through integrated smart community education and information sharing.

Liam Dohn| 571 days ago

James raises a great point - the "ideal solution" depends on the local situation and requires the deep involvement of all stakeholders.

A question to the broader audience --> is there a site in New England anyone would consider as a best practice?

Liam Dohn| 548 days ago

BUILDINGS Magazine highlights a US government campus that may provide a model for a commercial campus in Connecticut for their microgrid program - follow the link below.

http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/3334/ArticleID/14680/Default.aspx

Josep Guerrero| 399 days ago

Microgrids are being investigated in Aalborg University, Denmark. A new research program on microgrids has been started this year.
You can find it here the information:
http://www.et.aau.dk/research-programmes/MicroGrids/
A number of new technologies like droop control, virtual impedances, hierarchical control, and energy management systems are being developede for microgrids.
Josep M. Guerrero, Professor in Microgrid
joz (at) et.aau.dk

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