Microgrid being designed in Potsdam would keep electricity flowing in emergencies
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 2:39 pm

POTSDAM -- National Grid and Clarkson University hope to add resiliency to local utilities by designing an underground microgrid in Potsdam.

In an emergency, the microgrid will operate as an electrical island independent of the main power grid, and serve the critical loads with local generation. It will use existing natural gas, fuel oil, and hydroelectric generation, as well as a planned two-megawatt photovoltaic installation. It also will include any new generation required to serve the load needed to meet the mission of the microgrid and may use energy storage elements to facilitate better dynamic loading and power quality performance.

When completed, the microgrid design will be the first of its kind, in providing resilient electric power service for essential community services during an emergency, and optimizing operating efficiencies under normal conditions, and serve as a model for other installations around New York and across the United States.

Under normal conditions, the microgrid will generally operate in a grid-connected mode, and be managed to improve the local power system reliability as well as maximizing the operating revenue of the individual generation owners during these periods. The microgrid will be designed to provide the needed services during extreme events while minimizing the total cost of the system.

Clarkson University will identify the critical loads on the microgrid, and develop a plan for serving these loads while in the microgrid mode of operation.

The microgrid can offer protection to local loads not only for extreme weather related events such as ice storms, but also during outages of the bulk power system due to major blackouts such as the northeastern U.S. blackout of 2003, geomagnetic storm related blackouts and certain types of EMP events that might impact the larger bulk power system.

National Grid will provide system and policy information, design the underground power and communications systems, perform interconnection studies, and determine points of microgrid/main-grid interconnect.

The diversity of generation is a key factor in the ultimate resiliency of the microgrid. Another key factor will be the installation of an underground primary distribution network connecting the generation and loads of the system. This underground network will not be vulnerable to extreme weather events such as ice, wind, and lightning.

The project is funded by a $381,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Other partners in the initiative include GE Energy Consulting, Nova Energy Specialists, the Village of Potsdam, SUNY Potsdam, and the Canton-Potsdam Hospital.