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Connecticut plans nation's first statewide microgrid

<p>Nine projects in the state aimed at keeping critical buildings powered have received funding.</p>

Nine microgrid projects across Connecticut were awarded $18 million in funding as part of the state's innovative strategy to keep critical buildings up and running during electric grid outages.

The projects will be the foundation for the nation's first statewide microgrid.

They were selected from among 36 concepts submitted under a program created in July 2012 by Gov. Dannel Malloy to address lingering grid power outages. In the previous year, two storms left more than one million Connecticut businesses and homes without power for days.

That was before Superstorm Sandy hit in October, further underscoring the regional grid's vulnerability.

The Microgrid Pilot Program will test the feasibility of using a distributed microgrid network during extreme weather events to power police, fire and emergency response teams; hospitals and healthcare facilities; state and town emergency response centers; and grocery stores and gas stations.

“Microgrids play a major role in our efforts to modernize and harden our infrastructure to withstand severe weather,” said Malloy. “These projects will help protect residents and vital public services even when the power goes out, and in doing so allow us to provide critical services during times of emergency. Over the next two years, I’ve recommended an additional $30 million in funding for the state’s microgrid program to strengthen more Connecticut communities.”

The program requires State Bond Commission authorization, anticipated this fall. It is managed by the state's Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) in consultation with the state's two major electric utilities.

The nine projects receiving funding are:

• Bridgeport -- $2.97 million for three 600 kilowatt (kW) natural gas microturbines to power the city hall, police station and senior center. Bridgeport also will be home to one of the nation's largest fuel-cell deployments.

• Fairfield -- $1.16 million to deploy two natural-gas-fired engines and 47 kW in solar to power the police station, emergency operations center, cell tower, fire headquarters and public shelter.

• Groton Naval Submarine Base -- $3 million for a 5 megawatt (MW) cogeneration turbine and 1.5 MW diesel generator. Since the base is a federal entity, the funding came from the State Department of Economic and Community Development and not DEEP.

• Hartford -- $2.27 million for four diesel generators with capacities of up to 1.9 MW for the University of Hartford campus and St. Francis Hospital, and $2.06 million for a 600 kW natural gas generator to power the Parkville Cluster school, senior center, library, supermarket and gas station.

• Middletown -- $694,000 for a natural gas combined heat and power reciprocating engine at the Wesleyan University campus and athletic center, a public shelter.

• Storrs -- $2.14 million for a 400 kW fuel cell and 6.6 kW solar photovoltaic array at the University of Connecticut Depot Campus.

• Windham -- $639,950 for a mix of natural gas, solar, diesel and energy storage technologies at two schools.

• Woodbridge -- $3 million for a 1.6 MW natural-gas turbine and 400 kW fuel cell that will support the police station, fire station, Department of Public Works, town hall and high school.

In July, Standard Solar and Solar Grid Storage installed one of the first commercial-scale microgrids in the U.S., located in Maryland, where it is supporting a solar array.

"Advancing our energy storage infrastructure builds greater confidence in Maryland's grid resiliency,” said Maryland Director of Energy Administration Abigail Ross Hopper. “Grid storage technology also improves the delivery service of our first responders, armed services, telecommunications, waste water treatment plants and emergency shelters."

Power station image by TheYok via Shutterstock

This article originally appeared at Sustainable Business News and is reprinted with permission.

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