New York Goes For Community Energy In A Big Way

Community microgrids and renewable energy ownership opportunities are coming to New York.
Published: Mon 10 Aug 2015

Community energy schemes are an important and growing piece of the decentralized market jigsaw. Whether for those lacking space for self generation, such as apartment dwellers, or simply to benefit from economies of scale, community schemes are rapidly gaining ground in countries such as Great Britain and the United States as another option for individuals to take ownership of their energy needs. [Engerati-Can the 'Power' of Community Reshape Britain's Energy Market?]

New York state has been a pioneer in the promotion of community energy development. Now in separate announcements 83 communities across New York have been awarded funding to support microgrid projects, and a community initiative named Shared Renewables has been launched to enable individuals and others to come together to set up shared renewable energy projects. This follows just days after Hawaiian Electric had put forward a proposal to trial a community solar project. [Engerati-50 Home Community Solar Project To Pilot In Hawaii]

Community microgrids for New York

The microgrid awards, worth approximately US$100,000 each, were awarded following a statewide competition aimed to support the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. [Engerati-Community Microgrids Coming To New York]

Proposals were submitted from more than 130 cities, villages, towns and municipalities for the awards, which will support engineering assessments that evaluate the feasibility of installing and operating a community microgrid at the proposed sites. Recipients include local governments, community organizations, non-profit entities, for-profit companies and municipally-owned utilities. All winning projects must be integrated into utility networks and serve multiple customers, including at least one “critical infrastructure” customer, such as a hospital, police station, fire station or water treatment facilities.

“New Yorkers have first-hand experience regarding the need for resilient and efficient power systems that can withstand whatever Mother Nature has in store for us," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding will help communities across New York invest in these new systems, which will ensure critically important institutions such as police and fire stations, hospitals and schools can continue operating during and in the aftermath of an extreme weather event.”

Community microgrid development

The studies will take place over the next six to eight months with the aim to uncover the most favorable technical configurations, as well as immediate opportunities for energy efficiency and distributed energy installations. Once the studies are completed, the recipients can compete for further funding support from NY Prize or pursue the distributed energy resource opportunities uncovered in their feasibility study.

In the final competition stage, NY Prize funding will be made available for project construction, with this and the previous stage both involving a cost-share.

Shared Renewables for New York

The Shared Renewables programme is aimed to provides opportunities for renters, apartment dwellers, low-income residents, schools and businesses to join together to set up shared renewable energy projects.

The first phase runs from October 19, 2015 through April 30, 2016. Projects will be limited to those that advance one of two specific REV goals: siting distributed generation in areas where it can provide the greatest locational benefits to the larger power grid, or supporting economically distressed communities by ensuring at least 20% of the participants are low and moderate-income customers. 

Beginning May 1, 2016, a second phase will make shared renewable projects available throughout entire utility service territories. In addition, other REV principles can be applied, such as aligning utility incentives to fully support Shared Renewables projects by allowing shared savings or revenues from new business models that facilitate projects at lower costs.

Customers will be able to participate in the Shared Renewables initiative in a number of ways, all of which are still to be made available. For instance, in the case of the residents of a condominium, they would need to find a “sponsor” who will be responsible for organizing the project on their behalf. The sponsor could be a developer or the residents of the building themselves by banding together to form a legal entity such as a limited liability corporation.

Further reading

NYSERDA: Microgrid competition award winners