New York State Under the Microscope with New Lab

smart grid research
Amber Plante for Zondits, April 20, 2015

With Hurricane Sandy’s devastation to not just personal property but also the area’s power infrastructure fresh in the minds – and wallets – of New York residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a series of announcements in the last few weeks that call for the state to embrace advanced infrastructure solutions and renewable energy measures to prevent another complete disruption. Collectively, these proposals are known as the Reforming the Energy Vision plan. If the endeavor is successful, it could have major ripple effects throughout the country.

First on the agenda for Gov. Cuomo was establishing the state’s Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy. Though a location has yet to be announced for this lab, New York officials have high hopes that it will examine ways to modernize the state’s energy grid with new smart grid technologies and microgrids to use and store more renewables. Additional microgrids—small power stations with independent generation sources and energy storage that are connected to the grid at large yet can operate independently—will reduce the number of customers left in the dark during major outages. Cuomo’s more recent announcement, the allocation of $160 million to include more renewables in the state’s energy grid, will presumably use the lab’s research resources to improve and advance the current state of grid technology.

The renewables New York is looking into include expanded wind farms, fuel cells, hydropower, and biomass power plants. And, where this shift in smart grid technology development may seem somewhat dramatic, it is being monitored thoroughly, especially since the Empire State is looked up to as a leader in this growing trend. In addition to watching to ensure that the any microgrid power generation does not increase greenhouse gas emissions, all developments will be carefully monitored and measured so that the rest of the country—or even the rest of the world—can learn from the process and determine how readily it can be replicated.


New York’s ‘smart grid’ research could influence other areas

Tribune Review, April 10, 2015

A microgrid is a self-contained power grid with its own power generator – possibly solar panels, a wind turbine, a diesel or natural gas power generator or a battery – that can link homes or hospitals, schools and other critical services, keeping the lights on when the larger grid does dark. A smart grid is a computerized electric grid that provides for two-way communication between the utility and customers and the utility and power plants, enabling power to be used more efficiently, and allows wind and solar power plants to be integrated into the system. The computerized system could also help integrate “distributed” power generation, such as rooftop solar power that doesn’t come from one centralized power plant, into the larger grid.

Renewables and smart grid research and development are occurring in other states, and investments are expanding all over the country, but the work that occurs in New York could gain both national and international significance.

“A lot of people are looking to New York for leadership in electric distribution, engineering issues and market design issues,” said Jim Gallagher, executive director of the New York State SmartGrid Consortium, who is not involved in either the lab or the renewables expansion efforts.

“The industry is so underinvested in R&D (research and development) that this is a good thing,” Gallagher said. “The business is going through a major transformation right now, moving into digital (and) new technologies, and it’s so important that there be better information on how these technologies work.”

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