New York Announces NY Prize Stage 1 Awardees, Pace Energy and Climate Center to Assist Nine Communities in Evaluating Microgrid Feasibility

July, 10, 2015
Nick Martin
Energy Policy Associate
Community Energy

On July 8, 2015 New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the NY Prize Community Microgrid Competition Stage 1 winners. NY Prize is a $40 million competition to help communities create microgrids - standalone energy systems that can operate independently in the event of a power outage. In Stage 1 of the competition 83 communities across New York State have received awards of approximately $100,000 to study the feasibility of developing a community microgrid. The Pace Energy and Climate Center is a partner to nine of the awardee teams and will assist in analyzing legal and regulatory issues these communities will encounter in the development of community microgrids. A map of all NY Prize awardees can be found on NYSERDA’s website.

When NY Prize was first announced in August 2014, officials estimated that approximately 25 to 30 communities would be selected for the Stage 1 award. The response to the competition far exceeded all expectations with more than 130 applications from across the state. As a consequence of this groundswell of interest and an abundance of promising projects from all parts of the State, the number of Stage 1 awardees was markedly expanded.

The extraordinary response to the competition demonstrates that cities, villages, towns, and municipalities are keenly interested in cleaner and more resilient energy. Microgrids can incorporate a portfolio of highly efficient technologies such as combined heat and power systems, energy storage, intelligent energy management systems and controls as well as renewable energy sources like solar and wind. They make communities more resilient by providing cooling, heating, and power to serve critical facilities and vulnerable populations during instances when the electric grid is down.

Every proposed microgrid for NY Prize includes at least one critical facility such as a wastewater treatment plant, hospital, police department, fire station, library, university, school, or facility of refuge.  When incorporated into a microgrid, these facilities will be capable of serving the surrounding community even during prolonged power outages caused by catastrophic events such as hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms, severe heat waves, massive equipment failures or intentional disruptions. A aspect of microgrids is that they will provide both electrical and thermal resiliency. An often overlooked fact is that many heating systems, even those running on fuel oil or natural gas, cannot function without electricity. The winter weather following Superstorm Sandy was a harsh reminder of this for many residents in the Northeast.

Awardee communities are granted up to $100,000 to conduct a detailed assessment of the technical feasibility and economically viability of a proposed microgrid. Proposals that are selected under Stage 2 will be awarded up to $1,000,000 to conduct an audit-grade detailed engineering design and financial and business plan. Projects that did not receive funding under Stage 1 may also submit for Stage 2. Finally, competitors will be able to submit their audit-grade designs in Stage 3 of the competition for consideration for microgrid build-out and operation funding.

The Pace Energy and Climate Center lauds Governor Cuomo for initiating this first-in-the nation program. NY Prize is a testing ground for innovative community microgrid business models and designs. The program expressly supports microgrids that incorporate multiple uniquely owned and controlled buildings. In contrast, most microgrids existing today tend to serve large campuses owned by a single entity such as a university campus, a multi-building hospital complex, or a military base. Organizing multiple distinct entities and end-users presents unique financial and contractual challenges. With the support offered by NY Prize, communities will now have additional resources to overcome these challenges, leading to the design, develop, and deployment of high efficiency, environmentally superior, and disaster resilient community microgrids.