Southampton In Bid For State Grant Money To Build Microgrid

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A proposal to create a microgrid tying in key community centers in Southampton Village was unveiled to the Southampton Town Board on Thursday. If developed, the microgrid would provide auxiliary power in the event of storms or other natural disasters as well as help bridge the gap for demand during peak summer hours.

Robert Foxen, the chief executive officer of Global Common, a company that develops microgrids and other power generation facilities, presented a feasibility study on the project. That study, one of 83 done statewide, including 14 on Long Island, was funded through a $100,000 state grant last year. Mr. Foxen’s firm, which works with General Electric Consulting, has proposed two other microgrids, one in Greenport and one in Port Jefferson.

If approved by the state, the 5,980-kilowatt project would cost about $12 million to build and could be up and running as early as 2019, Mr. Foxen said on Monday.

But before the final go-ahead is given for the project, it will still have to make its way through two more rounds of competition for grant money. If it clears the next round, it will be eligible for up to $1 million in state funding for the design phase of the project. Winners are expected to be announced by year’s end, Mr. Rosen said. If the project clears the final round, the state will ante up as much as $7 million for construction.

Only about 10 projects statewide are expected to make it through the second round, and only five to seven are expected to be chosen for construction, Mr. Foxen said. If the Southampton microgrid wins final approval, Mr. Foxen said his firm would seek private investors to complete the project.

The microgrid would connect Southampton Hospital, Southampton Town and Village Halls, the Southampton Schools, and the Southampton Police and Fire Departments. It would make use of existing emergency generators and solar panels, but also include the construction of additional small-scale power generation facilities.

Central among them would be a small gas or diesel fired plant on the grounds of Southampton Hospital that would provide electricity for the hospital’s operations as well as provide it with a means to use the heat generated by the plant to heat its water.

Janice Scherer, the town’s assistant planning director, said although the town had sponsored the initial grant, it would work with the village on the proposal. “The idea is to include the critical features you would need in case of a storm outage for an extended period like two weeks,” she said. “And it would have to be financially feasible and shave consumption during peak hours.”

“It is going to reduce cost and improve reliability,” said Mr. Rosen, noting that the microgrid would make up for some of the power shortages during peak period and assure that the central part of the village would have reliable power.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has sponsored the grant competition as part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision policy, which aims to decentralize the production of electricity across the state.

“It’s a lot like when computers went from mainframes to desktops,” Mr. Foxen said of the trend toward decentralization.

“We know we can’t rely on a power plant in western Suffolk, we need a reliable source of energy close to home,” said Ms. Scherer. “But nobody wants a large power plant here. The microgrid is like a smart technology where it would be plugged into the market place and during periods of high demand, it would take some of the load off the grid much like a peaker power plant or wind farm.”

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