Energy Exchange

How Smarter, More Flexible Energy Can Help Communities Weather Future Storms

Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a Rebuilding Strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.”  From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible.  This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.

The Task Force is led by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.  The recommendations put forth in the report were developed with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, and a number of federal agencies and officials from across New York and New Jersey, representing an unusual opportunity to make changes that will help communities weather future crises.

This key idea – smarter, flexible energy – is central to resilience, safety and quick recovery in a storm, as well as reducing the harmful pollution linked to climate change in the first place.  This has been a key theme of EDF’s efforts to help the Northeast region respond to Sandy.

When the power grid went down on most of New York City following Hurricane Sandy, a number of buildings were able to keep their lights on thanks to existing microgrids and on-site, renewable energy sources.  The Task Force report lays out a path forward for taking these isolated success stories to scale and making these clean technologies available to everyone.

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Posted in Climate, Grid Modernization, Investor Confidence Project, New York, On-bill repayment / Tagged , , , , | Read 1 Response

Resiliency+: Distributed Generation and Microgrids Can Keep Lights On During the Next Storm

Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.

Source: Postdlf

Source: Postdlf

Unlike large, centralized power plants, distributed generation and microgrids create electricity on or near the premises where it can be primarily used. Solar panels on rooftops, for example, are a form of distributed generation: they create electricity that can be used in the same location where the renewable energy is generated. Microgrids are similar – systems that serve a specific energy consumer, such as university campuses, with on-site energy generation that can operate both independently from (i.e. ‘islanded’) and connected to the larger energy grid.

A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study found that distributed generation and microgrids, “are integral to energy resiliency.” With the right enabling technology, distributed generation and microgrids have the potential to ‘island’, meaning that they can function separately from the main electricity grid. In other words, in the aftermath of a storm or during a blackout, distributed generation and microgrids are able to keep power running. The importance of this technology cannot be understated. Without it, electricity that has the potential to work during a system-wide blackout – like solar power or energy storage – will be rendered powerless. Distributed generation and microgrids provide the pathway for these clean energy resources to function during and after a natural disaster. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy / Tagged | Read 3 Responses

What We Can Do to Ensure Solar Panels Work During the Next Sandy

tivertonsolar

Source: Lewis Clarke

New Jersey is a national leader in solar power. With close to 1,300 MW of solar energy currently installed, the state ranks third in the country in solar capacity.

A commitment to photovoltaic (PV) technology has helped New Jersey reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and lower electricity bills. Yet despite its impressive track record in New Jersey, distributed solar PV proved vulnerable when it was most needed – during an historic electricity outage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. With another hurricane season upon us, it’s a good time to look at ways solar can be utilized when the grid fails.

An unfortunate reality

When Superstorm Sandy hit, residential and commercial PV owners were frustrated upon realizing that their solar panels were rendered useless without a functioning central grid, even when the sun was shining brightly. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization, New Jersey, Renewable Energy / Comments are closed

Weathering The Storm Next Time: Gov. Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Panel Offers Smart Plan To Keep The Lights On, Emissions Down

Extreme weather and aging infrastructure came together with a vengeance in Sandy, showing the fragility of the basic systems that sustain this vibrant city and region. Like so many others, my family lost power, heat and water during Superstorm Sandy, and I watched out my window as a giant flash marked the moment that waters crested a 12-foot retaining wall at the 14th Street ConEd plant.

New Yorkers are all too familiar with the devastation that followed, and the disruption that spread far beyond the water’s reach. As the immediate crises are resolved, our attention is now on the complex challenge of long-term resilience.

One big step: The NYS 2100 Commission, a panel of experts assembled by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo back in November, just two weeks after the storm. EDF President Fred Krupp served on the commission, and our energy team prepared extensive recommendations on how to make our energy system more robust, resilient and adaptable. In yesterday’s State of the State address, he talked about the results.

As it turns out, some important solutions were right under our noses.

For example, amid the darkness and devastation, there were dozens of homes, businesses, even whole communities that kept their lights on and the water because they were designed to isolate breakdowns, heal quicker, and work with natural systems rather than against them.

Success stories were located across our region: 

  • Lights stayed on for sixty thousand residents of Co-op City in the Bronx thanks to a combined heat and power plant that can operate independent of the grid. Ditto the office tower at One Penn Plaza, an apartment building at 11 Fifth Avenue, and large parts of the campuses at Princeton and NYU. 
  • In Bayonne, NJ, the Midtown Community School used a combination of solar panels and a generator to offer a safe, warm place to stay for over 50 residents during the storm. 
  • On Long Island, the Villani family kept their lights on thanks to a 4.8 kw solar array that happens to have a battery bank. “We had friends and neighbors coming over to charge phones and batteries,” Stephanie Villani said. 
  • In lower Manhattan, the community group Solar one used solar panels to offer residents of Stuyvesant Town, the sprawling 35-building apartment complex, a place to charge their phones and computers.

Exceptions like these should be the rule next time. Unfortunately, today’s utility grid is set up to discourage more of these success stories – which are also cleaner and more efficient.

Source: Reuters

In fact, many buildings outfitted with fresh new solar arrays stayed dark thanks to cumbersome, outdated rules and regulations. Ironically, the solar panels were not making electricity when the grid was down, precisely because they were permanently connected to the grid and had to be shut down, rather than simply unhook when the larger system failed. So instead of sunshine, they were running on diesel power – if they were running at all.

Building a smarter grid, and encouraging clean, efficient ‘microgrids’ that provide islands of heat and light means fewer outages and faster recovery. A smarter grid would also have the intelligence needed to pinpoint outages, cordon off damage, and reroute power.

Clearing out the legal cobwebs and requiring utilities to unlock their grids more easily would make their systems stronger and more resilient in a crisis, and open the door for more efficient, renewable energy solutions. It would also open up opportunities for new ways to finance the upgrades needed to take full advantage of efficiency and renewables in today’s buildings.

(You can read EDF’s blueprint for a smarter, more robust grid here.)

Climate change means that higher sea levels and more extreme storms are the new normal. Unfortunately, some of this is already locked in. But we still have an opportunity to prevent the worst, most costly consequences by working together to reduce heat-trapping pollution. Superstorm Sandy reminded us of the need to prepare for a more challenging future. We need to make sure the steps not only protect against the impacts we can’t avoid, but also help prevent those we can.

Yes, we will have to fortify our buildings and infrastructure, change building codes and keep generators on hand in the face of extreme weather. But a lot of the steps we can take to keep the lights on during a crisis are also steps we can take to cut the pollution that is linked to climate change and extreme weather in the first place.

As we invest federal emergency dollars to rebuild, as we get ready for the next time – let’s make sure we’re taking every step that solves for both safety and less pollution at the same time. Efficiency, a smart grid, transparent information, renewables. Unlocking multiple benefits like these can help us rebuild better, faster and stronger. And lead the way for the world’s great cities, many of which are on the coast and in harm’s way just like New York.

My kids and I were lucky to weather the storm with just inconvenience. But as I think about how might live in a future New York City, I’d like to be sure that we’re doing everything we can now to run this town on safe, clean energy. The Cuomo commission report takes a big step in that direction: let’s join the Governor and the members of this commission in making its recommendations a reality. This is an opportunity that business, political and community leaders must not miss.

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, New York, Renewable Energy / Tagged , | Read 1 Response