New York State goes big on microgrids

New York State goes big on microgrids

Image by Tesla314 via Flickr

New York did not disappoint. The state showed off its green energy cred in a big way last week as hundreds of thousands of climate marchers made their way through Manhattan, and United Nations members convened to talk about greenhouse gas emission goals.

With the spotlight on for Climate Week, New York produced several pieces of green energy news likely to influence microgrids.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority proposed a $5 billion Clean Energy Fund to advance cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy. The program includes a wide range of energy efficiency and renewables programs, including microgrids. The plan is designed to advance the state's move toward more local energy, its Reforming the Energy Vision, or REV.

About 70 companies and organizations submitted written comments to the state about REV, in hopes of influencing the final shape the new distributed energy market takes as the New York Public Service Commission works on its rules in the coming months. REV is expected to spur more microgrid and distributed generation in the state.

New York City committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by 2050, a plan that includes energy efficiency retrofits for public and private buildings, more renewables and less fossil fuel use. New York said it is the largest city to commit to the 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Dive into the details

First, NYSERDA's $5 billion fund distributes the money over a decade as the state weans clean energy, where possible, from state subsidies. The plan is not so much a new one, but a reconfiguration of New York's energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standard programs that end in 2015. It encompasses the entire clean energy supply chain — researchers, developers, equipment wholesalers, financial institutions, building managers and construction contractors and consumers.

[Learn more about resilient cities at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.]

Echoing REV, the plan tries to animate the market and bring more private dollars into clean energy. Such animation already is present for home automation technologies, with companies such as Apple, Google, Honeywell and Samsung selling smart thermostats and similar equipment. The market also has taken off in solar and other forms of distributed energy that use the power purchase agreement model, which spares businesses and consumers upfront costs for installations.

Of course, not all barriers to clean energy are financial. Regulatory blocks and delays also are holding up development. To that end, the program will work with utilities to identify and remove the barriers, NYSERDA said.

NYSERDA intends to align its programs with REV to reduce market confusion and meet long-term state goals. Microgrids come into play as the state tries to increase storm resiliency. In particular, the plan notes the need to install microgrids that can island portions of the grid using distributed energy and advanced controls.

Doing so will mean creating regulatory reform that offers time-sensitive rate options, evolution in utility planning models and alternative regulation of community microgrids, NYSERDA said. It also requires an evolution in technology, particularly digital microgrid controls, automated distribution system controls, communication protocols and data analytics and asynchronous inverters. The Clean Energy Plan intends to support advancement of these technologies through various strategic initiatives.

In the REV proceeding, the New York Independent System Operator contributed a report that provides a look at the distributed energy landscape in the state.

Prepared by DNV GL, the report noted that microgrids are a growth technology. GTM research found 81 operating microgrids and 35 more planned in New York, the report said. Nationally, about 1 GW of microgrids has been installed so far, ranging in size from 1 MW to over 50 MW. Navigant Research estimates the number will grow to more than 2 GW by 2017.

Top image of electricity shield by Tesla314 via Flickr. This article first appeared at Microgrid Knowledge.