Connecticut to provide the first real case study for microgrid technology

Connecticut and its governor, Dannel Mallory, are working toward the first state-level policy on microgrids.

Last year, after two storms left nearly 1 million Connecticut businesses and home-owners without power, Gov. Dannel Malloy had had enough. He formed a panel to look for ways to avoid future outages. The group came back with the usual suggestions, like burying power lines. But their report also included another less familiar idea: microgrids.

In June, the Connecticut General Assembly created a microgrid pilot program, making it the first state to have an explicit policy on microgrids. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was given $20 million to test the idea with a handful of municipalities, which will be selected by the end of the year, with several microgrids operating by mid-2013. The idea is not only to strategically place microgrids near critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, and water systems, but also near town centers and commercial hubs. That way, if the power goes out, grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will remain open too.

While microgrids have been implemented in smaller scales throughout the US, but the project in Connecticut is a first for this scale of implementation. This can also lead to Connecticut developing the first, case-tested standards for microgrid implementation.

Connecticut’s microgrid pilot will be the technology’s first real case study. There are certainly other microgrids operating in the U.S. -- for example, the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Calif., runs on one; the University of California at San Diego has a microgrid that operates on a mixture of renewable and traditional energy sources; and the U.S. Department of Energy is currently spending $55 million to support eight microgrid projects. Still, there are no regulations governing the technology, according to Asmus. So it will be up to Connecticut to develop technical, operational and safety standards.

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