First result from Connecticut's big microgrid push



Quick Take:  Until recently, microgrids have been a hot topic with few real-world examples. That's changing now, and Connecticut is leading the way. In fact, the Governor says he wants at least one microgrid in all 169 Connecticut towns. - Jesse Berst


Upgrades to a microgrid at Wesleyan University in Middletown, MA make it the first project to be finished under Connecticut's microgrid expansion initiative. Wesleyan received a grant of nearly $700,000 to connect a second gas generator and expand the microgrid to encompass the athletic center (which doubles as an emergency shelter).


Connecticut's microgrid initiative has been heavily promoted by Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. "In an environment that is rapidly changing, unusually cold weather, unusually hot weather, unusually strong storms, we have to make sure we're in a position to take care of our citizens," said Malloy, who started working on microgrids when he was mayor of Stamford.


Malloy believes all Connecticut towns need reliable backup power so residents can get electricity and water during blackouts. "We can take care of the needs of our 169 towns. We should have a microgrid in each one of those, and the larger communities should have more than one," he said to The Courant newspaper.


Even though the technology is maturing, some regulatory issues still need to be tested, warns energy and utilities lawyer Paul Michaud. He wonders if the state's "traditional" utilities such as Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating will challenge microgrid projects, especially those that cross over a public right-of-way.


Michaud warns that microgrids are "a 2014 program butting up against 1970s vintage regulatory rules. ... That is where the program is either going to stand on its own or fail."


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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