Remember back at the end of 2012 when I filed this public comment in the WV PSC’s investigation of the 2012 derecho blackout?
So let’s get to what the Commission can do right now to really improve reliability by making microgrids a reality in West Virginia.
- Expand virtual metering: In the Commission’s current net metering regulations, there is provision for virtual metering if primary loads are on a different meter from the meter circuit that contains solar power generation. The regulations, however, limit the creation of a virtual meter to meters located on contiguous property. By expanding virtual metering to a single customer entity, but for loads in different non-contiguous locations, the Commission could create long term viability for municipal and county emergency backup systems that could locate solar arrays at water or sewer plants that could then be used to charge battery systems at various first responder and emergency services locations owned by a county or city.
- Expand power sales opportunities: The Commission could also create a new tariff structure for small scale power producers from local microgrids using renewable or NGCC generation that would allow them to generate revenue from their local systems during normal, non-emergency operation. Current tariffs in West Virginia do not provide enough revenue to make the kinds of investments in these systems which would dramatically increase the reliability of emergency systems needed in power company failures.
- Identify appropriate microgrid opportunities in West Virginia: The Commission took the initiative in the 2009 blackout general investigation that led directly to the establishment of the new reliability standards. The Commission should initiate a new case to study appropriate microgrid technologies and strategies for using microgrids in West Virginia to strengthen critical services during power company failures. This study case is vital, because there is so little microgrid expertise in West Virginia or its Ohio-based power companies. In 2008, Allegheny Energy received a multi-million dollar grant from the US Dept. of Energy to build and test a microgrid at WVU called the Super Circuit. The project was to begin in the fall of 2009 and continue for 4.5 years. To date, FirstEnergy has revealed no practical applications for West Virginia developed in this project. By now, FirstEnergy should be able to share many useful results of the Super Circuit project.
Initial steps toward microgrid reliability are perfectly suited to building a stronger emergency response capability in West Virginia. These are steps that the Commission can take right now to move us forward. When will we face the next major power blackout?
Needless to say, the PSC didn’t even mention the word “microgrid” in their final order in the investigation case.
Not so in NY. Here’s the press release issued by NY Gov. Cuomo’s office on Jan. 7. From the press release:
A RESILIENT ENERGY SYSTEM – $1,414,792,188
Harden Existing Electrical Grid – $1,374,792,188
New York will utilize federal funds to harden the State’s existing electrical grid, including the move of approximately 500 miles of overhead primary wire underground, elevating vulnerable substations, expanded tree-trimming and raised power lines for newly elevated homes, and creating a new outage response system. With the new PSEG-Long Island in place in 2014, the State can take its ongoing fixes even further to protect Long Island against future storms.
Create 10 Microgrids – $40,000,000
Under an innovative program to create at least 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distributions systems) statewide, the State will launch NY Prize, a $40 million competition, to help build community-scale power grids for areas with approximately 40,000 residents. Microgrids can operate in tandem with existing power supply during normal conditions, but will disconnect and operate as an independent power system to keep the lights on during an emergency.
Kevin Law, President and CEO of Long Island Association, said, “The Governor’s plan is propelling New York’s storm preparation into the 21st century. By investing funds into the expansion of the FUEL NY program and the hardening of our existing electrical grid, he is taking smart, necessary steps to ensure that New York has a reliable and stable energy network that can hold up during the next storm. In addition, the creation of 10 microgrids that can operate independently of our normal grid will serve as a reinforcement in communities that have no power. I commend the Governor on these bold, creative ideas that will undoubtedly make a difference in communities throughout New York.”
That’s right, TEN microgrids. Here in WV — NOTHING.