Multimedia: One Year After Sandy: A Conversation with New Jersey Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski

Weber Ave SignDeputy Speaker John Wisniewski recently spoke with CSG/ERC Energy & Environment Program staff about the buyouts underway in his district for homeowners whose properties were destroyed by Sandy; and about the costs, and benefits, of relocation.

Currently, almost 200 homes in the coastal community of Sayreville, New Jersey are expected to be eligible for buyouts under the state’s Blue Acres Program. Among other issues, Deputy Speaker Wisniewski discusses questions surrounding how the community will be able to compensate for the loss of nearly $1 million in property tax revenue. There are also unanswered questions about who will maintain newly created open space where destroyed homes once stood.

“Long term, this has to be a topic that this legislature and other state legislatures engage in,” says Wisniewski. “Because if we fail to do this, we do so at our peril. If we fail to do this, we will be buying bigger bills that we won’t be able to pay in the future.”

Multimedia: Connecticut’s Microgrid Pilot: A Conversation with Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty

Commissioner Esty recently spoke with CSG/ERC Energy & Environment Program staff about Connecticut’s first-in-the nation microgrid pilot, which will test a range of engineering, technological and policy approaches to keeping critical facilities operating when the main grid loses power.

Click here to view the video.

Note:  This video is part of a new CSG/ERC series intended to inform our members about innovative policies being implemented in our region. The views expressed in our video podcasts do not represent official CSG/ERC policy positions.

Pilot Overview: Reimagining the Grid of the 21st Century

Following a spate of severe storms in recent years that led to widespread, prolonged power outages across Connecticut, state officials have taken a series of steps to strengthen the electricity system to make it more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather. Central to this effort is Public Act 12-148, signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy last year, which creates a first-in-the nation statewide Microgrid Pilot Program that will test a range of engineering, technological and policy approaches to keeping critical facilities operating when the main grid loses power.

A microgrid is a small-scale, integrated electricity generation and distribution system that can be managed locally and independently from the broader power grid.  The system is powered by onsite, distributed generation that can include a combination of power sources, depending on the system’s design. They include natural-gas turbines, diesel generators, fuel cells, anaerobic digesters powered by methane from sewage-treatment plants, solar arrays and wind turbines.

As part of the first phase of Connecticut’s pilot program, the General Assembly allocated an initial $18 million to fund nine small-scale projects across the state. The microgrids being developed are intended to provide electricity around the clock to a range of facilities in the case of a power outage, and will have the ability to “island,” or isolate, from the larger grid when it goes down.

“We think this is breaking through to a new model, a new approach to what the electricity system of the twenty-first century is going to look like,” said Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is overseeing the state’s microgrid pilot.  “I think there are a lot of folks out there who have begun to conclude that we can’t be as reliant on a few big power plants, that the idea and the logic of distributed generation is quite significant.”

Recipients of the first round of funding include universities, hospitals, local emergency-response facilities and commercial centers.

Alex Kragie, special assistant to Commissioner Esty, said the microgrid pilot is part of a broader initiative that Connecticut officials are implementing to modernize the electricity system. “There are obviously lots of aspects of the microgrids that require a smart grid by definition,” said Kragie.  “You have to have hardware and software in place that will allow for this islandable capacity to be active during an outage situation. The microgrid is part of this smarter grid initiative that is happening across the state.”

While the concept of a microgrid is not new, it is increasingly being embraced by state and local officials in eastern states seeking to make the power system more resilient in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other massive storms that have caused widespread electricity-system outages. Microgrids have long been utilized by commercial entities and universities, and in recent years, they have been developed by the military as a way to ensure a more secure power supply.  Connecticut is partnering with the Department of Defense, which has made a commitment to installing microgrids at a number of its critical facilities.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has recommended that an additional $30 million be allocated to the pilot program over the next two years.

More information on Connecticut’s Microgrid Pilot Program:

DEEP Microgrid Grant and Loan Pilot Program

Public Act 12-148

Gov. Malloy Announces Nation’s First Statewide Microgrid Pilot

Information on microgrid projects in other states:

New York and California are two states that have been moving to promote microgrids in recent years. For more information see:

New York:

Microgrids: An Assessment of the Value, Opportunities and Barriers to Deployment in New York State, Prepared for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, September 2010.

California:

The California Energy Commission has supported a range of microgrid efforts. Here are two press releases announcing recent projects:

Energy Commission Awards 1.7 Million for Military Microgrid Project, July 8, 2013.

Energy Commission Awards More than $1.8 Million for UC San Diego Microgrid Projects, January 9, 2013.

During Sandy, Dunes Provided an Effective Defense

Maintaining healthy dune and beach systems is often considered a critical – if controversial — practice among those responsible for protecting vulnerable coastal communities. During Superstorm Sandy, the existence of fortified dunes and beaches often spelled the difference between minor and catastrophic damage in areas that were hardest hit by the storm’s massive surge. Continue reading

Massachusetts Announces Plan to Ban Commercial Food Waste

Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration on Wednesday announced a proposal to outlaw disposal of commercial food waste starting July 1, 2014, in a bid to help Massachusetts reach its goal of reducing the waste stream some 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Continue reading

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Bloomberg Unveils $20 Billion Plan to Prepare New York City for Future Storms

This gallery contains 1 photos.

As New York City proceeds with the lengthy rebuilding process following Superstorm Sandy, the Administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg has released an ambitious report that calls for a series of measures to limit the impacts of climate change and help … Continue reading

First North American Offshore Wind Turbine Launched in Maine Waters

Photo courtesy of Advanced Structures and Composites Center, University of Maine

Photo courtesy of Advanced Structures and Composites Center, University of Maine

Last Friday, the Gulf of Maine became host to North America’s first grid-connected offshore wind turbine, as part of a performance test  for an innovative floating technology that proponents hope will advance an industry that has struggled to gain a foothold in this country. Continue reading

Staying or Leaving: Challenges for Communities Subject to Repeated Natural Disasters

sandy-hits-new-jersey_croppedThe destructive forces unleashed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 have left a number of northeastern states with challenging decisions about how best to manage the risks of increasingly frequent and severe weather events.  One particularly complex issue involves policy approaches to sites that undergo repeated flooding.  Continue reading