Microgrid project to help electricity reliability in NY's North Country

Published on: Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A wide group of entities including GE, DOE, NREL, National Grid and Clarkson University are partnering in a research project aimed to mprove the reliability and resiliency of electricity delivery in northern New York.

The works will be focused in the Village of Potsdam, near the Canadian border, an area prone to ice storms that could damage utility lines and other above-ground power infrastructure.

With a $1-2 million grant from DOE, and a contribution of $300,000 from GE, the project intends to develop an Enhanced Microgrid Control System (eMCS) which is designed to be the key element for keeping the town's electricity system working for several days despite an eventual disconnection from the main power station.

Furthermore,the team calims the project will help utilities, like National Grid, better leverage distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar, hydropower, and thermal, in a microgrid scenario.

“The microgrid control system that my team will be developing will bring these renewable power sources online and effectively manage them, along with other traditional generation resources, to improve the reliability and efficiency of the main power grid while helping ensure stable backup power in the event of a blackout,” said Sumit Bose, principal investigator on the project and microgrid technology leader at GE Global Research. “It’s a vital component and critical to the system’s resiliency and overall performance.”

“We are pleased to play a leadership role in this exciting energy initiative. It is a perfect extension to the modeling and design work we are performing right now,” said Ken Daly, National Grid’s New York President. “This is exactly the type of project that allows us to modernize the grid, while embracing innovation and efficiency to provide customers with the service they demand in the 21st century."

The eMCs will be developed in two main goals: to provide resilient, high-quality power delivery to the local community and efficient, reliable grid services to the local utility.

All specific energy needs and power resources surrounding the area will be taken into account, such as the option to include resources like 3 megawatts (MW) of combined heat & power generators, 2MW of solar photovoltaic, 2MW of energy storage and 900kW or more of hydro-electric generation.

"New York State's North Country is a region where we have first-hand knowledge of the tremendous impact that weather can have on our utilities' infrastructure," said Clarkson University President Tony Collins. "So, we are excited to be partnering in research that will have an impact not only on Clarkson's neighbors, but also on communities like Potsdam around our state and nation, where severe weather can be disruptive to lives and commerce."

“Together, GE’s control system, and the underground microgrid envisioned for the Potsdam community, could serve as a model for towns and cities across the country that are susceptible to weather disasters and blackouts,” added Bose.

Microgrid technology is becoming a key aspect for the US power grid, especially after the 2012, “SuperStorm” Sandy, one of the most deadly and destructive hurricanes in American history, which caused widespread damage to power lines, leaving over six million customers without electricity.

At that time, microgrids, with their local distributed energy resources, were able to sustain basic services like hospitals and other relief operations for more than two days, until grid power was restored.

“Microgrids support a flexible and efficient electric grid, enabling the integration of renewable and distributed energy resources such as wind and solar energy; combined heat and power; energy storage; and demand response,” said Bryan Hannegan, NREL’s Associate Director for Energy Systems Integration. “NREL is excited to be working with GE to accelerate the development of microgrids that can provide a reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity supply.”

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