By: Eric Anderson, Times Union
A major Midwest utility holding company is teaming up with a Massachusetts equipment maker to create a statewide series of microgrids, including one in the Capital Region.
Because microgrids using locally supplied power, including from renewable energy sources, can operate even as severe weather or other issues disrupt the overall electric grid, they’re considered more resilient.
Chicago-based Exelon, which operates utilities including Commonwealth Edison in the Chicago area, has teamed up with Anbaric, a Wakefield, Mass.-based transmission project developer, to find customers for the microgrids.
“New York state has made clear that it wants to be a national leader in microgrid development,” said Ed Krapels, Anbaric’s founder and CEO. “This alliance responds to that call by tailoring our efforts around Governor Cuomo’s energy plan and the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision program to create a paradigm for microgrid development that benefits New York residents and businesses.”
Resilience could be attractive to customers including hospitals, industrial companies or data centers that can’t afford to lose power even for an instant.
The electric grid, and such power sources as Niagara Falls, aren’t about to go away he said.
“The big grid has to be the operating system for microgrids,” Krapels said. “We need the macrogrid to remain healthy and viable,” he added later.
The Capital Region first attracted the companies when the state Office of General Services and New York Power Authority sought requests for a feasibility study for a microgrid that would supply Empire State Plaza, the downtown Albany government complex, said Dirk van Ouwerkerk, Anbaric’s microgrid leader.
“It has large demand in a constrained area in the middle of the city,” he said of the challenge to supply it.
“In terms of the larger Capital Region, as we understand it, it is a grid in flux,” van Ouwerkerk said. “A lot of larger industrial customers that are growing their demand” need additional power, a gap the microgrid could close.
Other microgrid initiatives also are underway.
Last August, National Grid said it would partner with Clarkson University to design an underground microgrid in Potsdam.
Other partners include GE Energy Consulting, SUNY Potsdam and Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
In the Capital Region, Anbaric and Exelon haven’t named potential clients.
“We have our eyes on a few projects. We’re not quite ready to talk about those yet,” Krapels said Tuesday. “The regulatory environment is changing in ways that take time.
“We’re talking about the next couple of years” for the regulatory framework that would allow the microgrids to proceed.
A spokesman for the state Public Service Commission, which would oversee the establishment of microgrids, couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment.