New York Nixes Microgrid in Favor of Solar Power Project

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New York State has abandoned plans for a combined heat and power microgrid at the state capital and instead will build a solar project in Oneida County, about 90 miles west of Albany.

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By chinasong/Shutterstock.com

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the Office of General Services (OGS) on September 19 said they would jointly develop the solar project on state-owned land near the former Oneida County airport. The capacity of the solar project has not yet been determined, but it is being designed to be able to provide up to half of the energy needs of the Empire State Plaza, a complex of state government buildings on a 98 acre site in downtown Albany near the capitol.

The solar power generated would be injected into the grid and credited to powering the plaza. “We are moving in a different direction,” NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele said. “We want more renewables, in keeping with the governor’s clean energy vision.”

On July 18, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for the state to derive 100% of electric power from renewable sources by 2040 and to eliminate or offset all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

A proposal to upgrade the energy facilities at Empire State Plaza was first floated in May 2017, as 16-MW microgrid project that would include a cogeneration plant to supply 90% of the plaza’s power, as well as heating and cooling for 10 buildings. However, in February 2018, under pressure from local advocates, NYPA said it would revisit the microgrid plan to see if it could include renewable energy resources.

In addition to community push-back and a desire for cleaner energy, another factor in the switch to the solar project was that bids for the microgrid project came in about 25% higher than expected, NYPA said.

In addition to the solar farm, the Empire State Plaza project, as now configured, includes $50 million to replace existing diesel emergency generators with modern, more efficient and quieter machines. Nearly  $30 million will be spent to electrify one of the on-site steam driven chillers thereby reducing gas use and emissions by 18%, and $16 million will go toward installing LED lighting throughout the plaza. The plans also calls for augmenting the remote solar plant with on-site solar panels.

And, as with the original microgrid project, the new plan also includes the demolishment of an out of use smoke stake at the former ANSWERS garbage incineration plant in Sheridan Hollow, which is where the microgrid cogeneration plant would have been housed.

The Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy was one of the most active community groups lobbying against the microgrid project.

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