Three game-changing energy projects in New York State

The New York Power Authority is implementing a series of projects that put in practice actionable DER integration. We explore some of their most exciting features.
Published: Mon 04 Jun 2018

When it comes to using distributed energy resources (DERs) to innovate business models, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) is a prime example.

We have previously investigated how utilities can integrate DERs to modernise their business models. With increasing pressure from customers and government policies towards sustainability, DERs have emerged as a convenient answer to several problems regarding clean energy integration. They offer possibilities in making renewable energy more accessible, reducing carbon emissions and creating a more sustainable power generation-distribution cycle.

The possibilities are manifold, but how can utilities really put them to practice and innovate their business model? NYPA sets an example in making the most out of the opportunities DERs have to offer. The American utility is currently running several exciting projects all over New York State to do just that - integrate photovoltaic (PV) systems, roll out electric vehicle (EV) charging points, invest in renewable energy for municipal investment planning, among several other programmes.

New York has moved forward in DER innovation, in large part, thanks to state policies. These have proved to be a key driver to reforming the utility business model in the state, a NYPA spokesperson told Engerati. “Under New York Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, utilities are required to integrate DERs into their planning and operation, and to develop markets and programmes to enable customers to monetise the benefit of their DERs to the grid and to society.”

According to NYPA, the REV policy framework compensates distribution utilities for increasing penetration and integration of DERs into their systems. Utilities are also rewarded for using DERs to reduce more costly infrastructure upgrades without negatively impacting reliability.

“Mechanisms are also being developed to compensate all DERs to the extent that they are capable of reducing utilities needs to purchase energy and capacity from the wholesale market, as well as for their benefit to the environment and to the operation reliability of the distribution system,” a NYPA spokesperson has pointed out.

A key player in making the state government’s vision come to life, NYPA has launched projects such as K-Solar, ChargeNY and the Five Cities Energy Plan to maximise DER integration.

K-Solar: powering public education

The K-Solar programme has found a noble application for PV systems installation: it allows public schools to get affordable solar energy, and it can do so without affecting school district budgets. In addition, as one of its most interesting features, the programme also introduces clean energy lessons into the schools’ science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) curriculum.

The programme - a joint initiative between NYPA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Governor's Energy Office, and the New York State (NYS) Education Department - has already reached one-third of all public schools in the state.

Solar rooftop installations at Somers Middle School, the first school to successfully partake in the project in 2017. (Source: NYPA)

The PV installations help schools significantly reduce their energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. K-Solar is also a means to achieve the state’s goal to supply 50% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030.

“Participation in the K-Solar programme is a first step in helping communities-at-large think differently about clean energy,” Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, has said in a statement. “K-Solar helps communities realise they can play a leadership role in going green and clean by embracing solar technology and reducing their fossil fuel footprint.”

The programme is not only a response to policy implementations, but also innovates in using this to help inspire the next generation to become more environmentally conscious and learn about clean energy solutions.

Charge NY: enabling e-mobility

Another noteworthy project is Charge NY, which seeks to accelerate and enable e-mobility in New York State. It is another statewide multi-agency initiative, based on the collaboration between NYPA, NYSERDA, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Its original goal was to install 3,000 charging stations to support a fleet of 40,000 electric vehicles in New York State. In 2018, the Governor renewed his commitment to clean electric transportation with Charge NY 2.0, with a goal of 10,000 charging stations by 2021. The overall objective is to make gasoline vehicles obsolete.

The project was implemented to support the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which requires all new vehicles sold in New York to be certified to California emissions standards, which are stricter than federal standards. This is to incentivise EV adoption and to enable a widespread charging infrastructure across the state.

“NYPA has installed charging stations in airports, train stations and municipal parking lots. We are also installing direct current fast chargers at Thruway [a system of highways within the state] service areas and at commuter lots along the highway.

“The electrification of transportation is an essential part of the Governor’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030,” a NYPA spokesperson has said.

The goal to unlock e-mobility was implemented as a way to reduce statewide emissions, acting alongside renewable energy integration. “Since 1990 the electric utility sector has substantially reduced its greenhouse signature, but the transportation sector, which now represents twice the emissions of the utility sector, has actually increased over this time period. Therefore it is imperative to link these two sectors.”

Five Cities Energy Plan: Municipal energy planning

The municipal energy planning Five Cities Energy Plan is last but not least in this list of projects. It presents innovation in energy efficiency, renewable energy integration, smart city technologies, among other areas.

It contains features such as smart street lighting management, building management, clean vehicle deployment, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure development. The cities involved in the programme are Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers. The goal is to reinforce the reliability of their energy infrastructure, stimulate investments for clean energy and economic development, and reduce energy consumption and related expenses.

The plans are designed to improve energy procurement and management, as well as to encourage public-private partnerships around clean energy deployment. The programme’s inception can be traced back to 2014: when each of the participating cities completed City Energy Plans to help them achieve their energy efficiency goals in 2014, there were opportunities for capital and planning initiatives related to energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse emissions.

“In order to further support the objectives laid out in the Energy Plans, NYPA made additional commitments under the Five Cities Programme to provide Energy Managers to assist the cities to proactively initiate projects and programmes identified in the Energy Plans,” NYPA has commented.

“The programme was meant to spark interest in energy efficiency and energy cost savings for the state’s largest cities, so that smaller cities across the state would follow in their footsteps. To date, we have installed energy efficiency measures at over 200 facilities yielding annual savings of almost $2m.”

NYPA is one of the utilities demonstrating that integrating DERs, innovating business models and providing a variety of energy services is no longer a pipe dream for the industry, but an actionable course that can prove to be a valuable differential in the market.