CST: 26/05/2016 05:32:55   

Create a Sustainable Microgrid: What Municipalities Can Learn From the City of Hoboken

105 Days ago

Interview With Devashree Ghosh, Alumni, 2015 Fellowship, EDF Climate Corps

PHILADELPHIA, PA --(Marketwired - February 10, 2016) - Microgrids represent a paradigm shift for the electric markets around the globe. The convergence of technological advances in Distributed Energy Resources (DER), energy storage and telecommunications has allowed innovators to produce resilient and efficient microgrid systems. Microgrid systems are increasingly important on the East Coast where unpredictable climate changes and major storms can cause severe and indefinite citywide outages. With 2012's national disaster, Hurricane Sandy, keeping 8.5 million Americans from having power, the need for backup energy sources is now increasingly important.

Devashree Ghosh, Alumni, 2015 Fellowship at EDF Climate Corps, recently spoke with marcus evans about how the City of Hoboken responded to Superstom Sandy by creating a microgrid toolkit to increase energy efficiency and community resilience:

Why was it necessary to create a microgrid toolkit and how did the project get initiated?

DG: Superstorm Sandy left Hoboken devastated in October 2012. Because the city already sits in a flood zone, Sandy brought in around 500 million gallons of brackish water, flooding the City of Hoboken -- its streets, homes and infrastructure. Ninety percent of the city lost power for about two weeks displacing many while forcing others to seek shelter in place. Sheltering vulnerable residents in place was an extremely stressful situation for city administration and also for the vulnerable residents, since there was no electricity or fresh water. Hoboken Mayor, Dawn Zimmer was with each of the residents at this moment of crisis. She felt that the City needed to strengthen its resiliency plans by improving energy availability during emergencies, reducing pressure on the main power grid during peak hours and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

With assistance from the Department of Energy, Sandia National Labs identified critical infrastructure and designed an energy surety system for a microgrid. The idea for a toolkit was initiated by Gail Lalla, Senior Project Manager at Greener by Design who was involved since the inception of the microgrid concept for the City of Hoboken. Greener by Design was the energy consultant for the City of Hoboken at that time and Gail sensed the need to fully engage with internal and external stakeholders. The toolkit put together by Greener by Design and me, an EDF Fellow at that time for the City of Hoboken, was necessary to help city managers think of community microgrids as a resiliency feature.

What was your role in creating the toolkit and what was your main objective?

DG: Superstorm Sandy brought catastrophic changes to the east coast in general -- causing landfall in several cities. The toolkit encourages city managers all along the East Coast to implement resiliency measures while thinking of back-up power and generation. My role while working hand in hand with Greener by Design was to create a toolkit that would enable green conversations, engage with stakeholders and monitor energy usage by a community so that at a time of crisis, only the required amount of energy is used. While the microgrid toolkit could take many different forms, the main objective was to ensure that the amount of energy required by a community during a crisis situation is available to all.

What was the biggest challenge in creating the toolkit and how did you overcome that challenge?

DG: When taking a hard look at whether the Hoboken Microgrid Project could become a carbon-neutral microgrid, it seemed an unachievable task even with the current technology, pricing and incentives available. Based on my calculations, there was just no way without offsets and impeccable costs for a microgrid to be carbon neutral. Hence, I channeled my efforts to strategize the need to achieve carbon-neutrality by creating templates that would easily allow city managers to collect data for carbon emissions monitoring. Included in the toolkit are directives for pursuing carbon neutrality over time. These include:

  • Decrease energy use in existing buildings to reduce stress on the microgrid
  • Integrate renewable sources of power generation

By including guidelines, I hope that future microgrid projects will be substantially greener than if these sustainability aspects had not been considered at all.

What are some of the most notable aspects of the toolkit that other municipalities can learn from?

DG:

  • Facilitate emissions monitoring
  • Increase energy resiliency for the entire community
  • Grow civic involvement
  • Benchmark different microgrid projects
  • Provide a scoring mechanism for the benefits derived from a microgrid
  • Ensure energy efficiency

How are other cities able to take advantage of the toolkit and why should they make it a priority?

DG: There are several microgrid projects across the states. Each microgrid caters to their immediate environments and increases the resiliency of the infrastructure connected to the microgrid. However, a microgrid created to increase overall community resiliency is fairly new. In order to demonstrate improved energy availability during a crisis and take the pressure off the main power grid during peak hours while reducing emissions through the application of renewables, there are a few variables that need to work hand in hand. "Resilient Microgrids" is a toolkit to increase microgrid resiliency. It encourages people first to think about the solution. Cities that want to have clean-energy conversations with the stakeholders and the community can take advantage of the toolkit. The following benefits have been identified:

  • Identifies return on investment for stakeholder investment in clean energy
  • Helps the city to monitor emissions for the community connected to the microgrid
  • Provides visual dashboards which can be used to benchmark other communities with microgrids
  • The Toolkit acts as a medium to engage in conversations on clean energy with other interested communities
  • The Toolkit acts as a knowledge transfer network of all parties in contract for the microgrid

Devashree Ghosh has earned her Mas­ter's de­gree in En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy and Sus­tain­abil­ity Man­age­ment from The New School in New York City. Ghosh has re­duced fac­tory op­er­at­ing costs through en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion pro­jects in Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zones in In­dia. She is an ar­dent ad­vo­cate of clean en­ergy and waste re­duc­tion.

Join Devashree at the 4th Microgrid & Distributed Energy Development Conference, March 16-17, 2016 at The Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia, PA. View the conference agenda to check out Devashree's case study topic. For more information, please contact Tyler Kelch, Digital Marketing Manager, marcus evans at 312.894.6310 or Tylerke@marcusevansch.com.

About marcus evans

marcus evans conferences annually produce over 2,000 high quality events designed to provide key strategic business information, best practice and networking opportunities for senior industry decision-makers. Our global reach is utilized to attract over 30,000 speakers annually; ensuring niche focused subject matter presented directly by practitioners and a diversity of information to assist our clients in adopting best practice in all business disciplines.

For more information, please contact: 
Tyler Kelch
Digital Marketing Manager 
tylerke@marcusevansch.com