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Community Forum on Microgrid Proposal Set for Nov.19

The viability of a microgrid in the event of a loss of power in the City of Plattsburgh will be among the topics at a community forum set for Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.

All area residents are invited to attend the event, to be held at The University of Vermont Regional Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Room 1-101. 

SUNY Plattsburgh, CVPH, the City of Plattsburgh and other community businesses are examining the feasibility of building and operating a community microgrid. The “grid” could maintain electric services for participating customers/facilities and the community at large in the City of Plattsburgh area when weather events or other emergencies severely disrupt the capacity of the local electrical distribution and transmission system.

The hosts for the forum are seeking input on several important topics from community residents, including:

— Where and how does the City of Plattsburgh gets it power?

— What is a microgrid?

— What are the benefits of a microgrid to a community?

— What goals and concerns do residents of Plattsburgh have over energy use?

Dr. Curt Gervich, associate professor in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh and co-chair of the study, said several college students are working on the project as well.

“Over the past couple of months, our students have been gathering data and discussing energy use with our partners,” he said. “Now we are turning to the broader community to ask similar questions and find out other community aspirations that the microgrid can help support.”

Other participants in the study include:

— Meadowbrook Healthcare

— Plattsburgh City School District

— Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department

— Samuel F. Vilas Nursing Home

SUNY Plattsburgh’s proposal was accepted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in Stage 1 of the New York prize competition earlier this year and was awarded $98,677 for the initial study. Willdan Energy Solutions of Webster, N.Y., is conducting the feasibility study in collaboration with a team of smart grid and power engineers from the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

With nearly 3,000 students in residence on campus at SUNY Plattsburgh, critical care needs at the hospital and nursing homes, and no permanent generation resources in the Plattsburgh community electrical system, the potential for prolonged power outages resulting from flooding and winter storms are significant threats and can endanger residents on and off campus.

The study will explore the possibility of islanding the college’s electrical system with nearby critical healthcare facilities as well as Plattsburgh High School. SUNY Plattsburgh will explore the use of a wide range of innovative technologies and systems including combined heat and power generation, thermal energy, solar, wind and biogas. Additionally, the feasibility study will explore power generation using the community’s gravity-fed water distribution infrastructure.

The study also will evaluate the installation of distributed generation resources to support critical facilities since there are no permanent generation resources currently located in the city’s electrical distribution system. None of the existing backup generators have sufficient capacity to support the electric load of the facilities entirely or indefinitely, and all of the backup generators are electric only with manual start. Just as important, several critical facilities currently lack backup power.

The Field House facility located on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, which is a designated emergency shelter for the Red Cross, does not have a backup power supply system. Considering the harsh winter weather and increasing flood concerns of the region, moving reliance from stored-fuel operated backup generators to some other alternative fuel-sourced backup generator at critical facilities and load pockets within the proposed grid location will be studied.

Other major tasks in the study include:

— Evaluating the feasibility of locating at least 13,000 kilowatts of generation resources to support critical facilities

— Evaluating the establishment of a distribution infrastructure to encompass critical facilities

— Exploring locating solar PV renewable, small hydro, and natural gas fired generation resources for continuous non-emergency operations

SUNY Plattsburgh will submit its feasibility study by Feb. 1, 2016, for consideration in the design stage of the competition. During the design stage, the New York prize selection committee will approve up to $1 million in funding for approximately 10 detailed designs. About five of those are expected to win approval for up to $7 million per project for building and construction.

For questions, contact Gervich at 518-564-4030 or [email protected].

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