Post-hurricanes, northeast turns toward resilient power

The one-two punches of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have spurred cities throughout the northeastern United States to invest in more reliable backup power systems.  These “Resilient Power” initiatives reduce reliance on generators (which too often fail when fired up) in favor of more resilient solar, fuels cells, and power storage systems that can provide benefits between outages as well.  A new Resilient Power Guide from the Clean Energy Group highlights early state-wide projects from Maryland to Vermont, which have spurred 40 municipal programs.  The first target is emergency response facilities: “More than 90 critical facilities in the Northeast – including emergency shelters, wastewater treatment plants, firehouses and other first responder facilities – will have resilient electrical systems in place to improve emergency response in the next year, and to protect neighborhoods in the next power outage.”  Click through to learn more about these trailblazing programs, then dig in a bit in your area to see how you might engage in some Zone 4 resilient investing to advance these efforts in your community.

For all the details, see the Resilient Power Project website, which offers a brief overview online, as well as PDFs of the full “Guide to Resilient Power Programs and Policy” and a six-page executive summary.  Here’s a taste of the latter:

Although backup power for grid outages has traditionally been provided by diesel generators, resilient power differs from diesel generators in several important respects.

First, it is cleaner, employing renewables, energy storage, and high-efficiency, low-emissions technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) and fuel cells. Second, it runs year-round, providing daily benefits to the host facility, whereas diesel generators sit idle 99 percent of the time. Third, because it is designed for daily use, resilient power is more reliable than diesel backup generators, which have a high incidence of failure, in part because they are seldom used. Fourth, resilient power does not rely on deliveries of liquid fuel, which may be difficult or impossible during a disaster. And fifth, in some places, resilient power technologies can produce income for their owner/operators by allowing them to bid into electric services markets such as the frequency regulation and demand response markets, as well as reducing electricity costs through peak shifting and reduction of electricity demand charges for the host facility.

CEG’s Resilient Power Project, a joint effort with the Meridian Insitute, helps states and localities learn from each other while gaining knowledge about new financing options. Through the project, CEG helps states develop new partnerships, supports new public funding tools, connects public officials with private industry, and works with state and local officials to support greater investment in power resiliency.

The Clean Energy Group also hosts frequent webinars designed for people who are developing state or municipal resilient power policy.  More than 30 such programs are available for viewing on their website, along with detailed descriptions and downloadable slides.  Two webinars are coming up in early July, including an overview on this new report on July 14 that will get you up to speed on this important element of regional resiliency.

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