By Marc Silvestrini
Special to The Observer
Twenty-seven potential microgrid projects from across the state, including three in area towns, have advanced to a final round of evaluation for funding, state officials said earlier this month.
The 27 projects were among 36 the state received in response to a Request for Proposals under its new Microgrid Grant and Loan Pilot Program. All 36 proposals were subjected to a feasibility study conducted by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, with the help of a technical consultant and the state’s two major electric utilities.
The local projects that will enter the final round of evaluation include proposals in Southbury, Ansonia and Southington.
Microgrids are small electricity systems that generate and distribute their own power, and don’t use the larger power grid for service.
State officials created a $15 million grant program to design and engineer the systems after storms in 2011 and 2012 disrupted power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses statewide, some for as long as two weeks. In his budget proposal for the next two fiscal years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recommended allocating another $30 million for the program.
Under the state program, DEEP will provide money to cover preliminary design and engineering costs that will be incurred by the 27 projects in the final round of the program – up to $1.5 million spread across all participants.
After the projects are further evaluated, DEEP will award another $13.5 million to the projects that best meet the criteria in the state’s original Request for Proposals. The money would cover costs associated with completing the project, such as final engineering, interconnection, and design work.
The 27 projects selected for the final round include municipal and private projects at critical facilities, such as police and fire stations, emergency shelters, hospitals, town halls, water pollution control facilities, emergency operations centers, Department of Public Works facilities, armories, communications facilities, senior centers and commercial buildings.
The projects in Southbury and Ansonia were among eight projects that advanced to the final round on a conditional basis. Conditional advancement means the projects must address certain technical issues or conditions in order to be approved for final funding, said Dennis Schain, DEEP’s communications director.
“These projects are still very much alive, they’re still in the running to win a grant …,” Schain said. “They’re just being warned that certain issues must be resolved before they can receive funding.”
In Southbury, officials applied for a grant to put town hall, the Southbury Center Firehouse, the police station, public works yard and the Community Building on a separate grid that would use existing generators to keep the buildings powered during a storm. The generators are located at the Community Building, which houses the senior center and recreation department offices, and behind the police station.
The grant would pay to have all the buildings connected to one circuit so they could be powered up simultaneously if electricity is lost.
The Ansonia project would place a wastewater treatment plant, a Water Pollution Control Authority facility, a transfer station, a Department of Public Works facility and a grocery store on a microgrid powered by a 700-kilowatt anaerobic digestor and a 1.05 megawatt natural gas generator.
According to the American Biogas Council, anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products of anaerobic digestion is biogas, which can be combusted to generate electricity and heat.
The Southington project would install 600-kilowatt propane generators to power the National Guard Armory, a middle school and a senior center.