United Illuminating (UI) has completed the Woodbridge microgrid, a project funded through Connecticut’s Microgrid Pilot Program.
The microgrid will power police, fire and shelter services during storms, blackouts and other emergencies.
Town and state leaders, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, gathered on Monday to celebrate the commissioning of the town’s new microgrid, which will use renewable energy to provide energy to seven critical town facilities in the event that the main power grid fails.
UI’s new fuel cell, located at Woodbridge’s Amity Regional High School, serves as the microgrid’s power source. And working together, FuelCell Energy and UI engineers designed a microgrid controller that activates the microgrid when the surrounding grid loses service during a storm or other event. What is unique about this controller it that it allows UI to control the microgrid as part of its distribution system even when it is island mode, project organizers explained.
“Make no mistake, climate change is real, and we must plan for future storms and resulting power outages,” said Malloy. “This project highlights two important initiatives that are driving innovative solutions to challenges that we face as a state: the state Microgrid Pilot Program, which seeks to maintain a high level of reliability of public and utility services; and the Renewable Connections Program, which has expanded the use of clean energy sources in the state.”
The project was launched when the town received a $3 million grant from the Connecticut’s Microgrid Pilot Program. The program is now its fourth round of funding, which closed for applications at the onset of 2018.
Shortly after Woodbridge received the grant, UI, a subsidiary of Avangrid, was brought on to the project to build the microgrid, as well as come up with a plan to power it via the fuel cell — which was completed in 2016.
When the fuel cell is not providing emergency power to the new microgrid, the town shared it contributes up to 2.2 MW of Class-1 renewable energy to the state’s power grid. In addition, the fuel cell, which was built by FuelCell Energy, also helps heat the high school, as waste heat from the plant’s operation is transferred to the school building’s heating system.
‘…when the next severe storm hits – and it will hit – we are prepared to respond” — Robert Klee, DEEP
The microgrid, which officially began service in February, has not yet been activated as part of a storm or other emergency event.
“Microgrid projects, such as this one in Woodbridge, help to ensure that critical government services are available even when the power goes out,” said Department of Energy & Environmental Protection Commissioner (DEEP) Rob Klee, who was also on site for the commissioning ceremony. “Connecticut is leading the way in energy innovations, so when the next severe storm hits – and it will hit – we are prepared to respond.”
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