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February 15, 2013

New York State Allots $20 Million for Backup Systems to Keep Lights on During Outages



Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is doing his best to ensure that New York State residents will not just be “whistling in the dark” during the next power outage. He announced this week that the state is making $20 million available to support clean-energy projects that will provide continuous power and heat during the weather-related blackouts that are hitting the Northeast with increasing frequency.

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These projects support the recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Commission to use distributed generation to provide backup power when electricity lines are down. The commission—co-chaired by Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix G. Rohatyn, former chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation— was formed last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies.

Combined heat and power (CHP) projects provide manufacturers, apartment buildings, hospitals, universities and other large buildings the ability to produce a portion of their own heat and electricity.

“Investing in combined heat and power technology will help keep our electric grid reliable and efficient, and make our businesses more competitive,” said Governor Cuomo. “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we have learned the value and importance of having clean-energy technologies like CHP in place that will keep the lights on and systems running for our residents and businesses.”

CHP projects, also known as “cogeneration,” capture heat produced during electricity generation and use it to provide on-site heat or hot water to buildings. These installations are capable of achieving higher levels of fuel efficiency by simultaneously producing both electric and useful thermal energy at the facility where the energy is needed. This localized generation can both reduce a facility's vulnerability to electric distribution system outages and decrease peak demand on the electric grid. Power created at the customer site also avoids inherent energy losses during transmission and distribution.

This program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will only fund CHP systems that can continue to operate during a grid outage. In addition, all applicants in flood zones must install systems in locations that would be “high and dry” in the wake of a worst-case flood scenario.

“Governor Cuomo has called for making the state’s infrastructure more resilient in the face of extreme weather like we witnessed with Hurricane Sandy. Through the use of combined heat and power technology, building owners can make that happen,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO, NYSERDA. “CHP systems can benefit our metropolitan areas in many ways, from easing air pollution to reducing fossil-fuel consumption, as well as reducing the pressure on the electric grid in times of great need.”

Since relieving strain on the electric grid is so important in densely-populated New York City, projects in the city and lower Hudson Valley will receive slightly higher funding, based on a sliding scale. In addition, this program will provide 10 percent more funding to projects that can power an official “facility of refuge”—a shelter to be used at times of emergency—as recognized by the American Red Cross or the local Office of Emergency Management.

The program will pay an incentive of up to $1.5 million per project for installing equipment approved by NYSERDA and installed by approved CHP system vendors. Projects can be as small as 50 kilowatts and as large as 1.3 megawatts, based on building requirements. Incentive amounts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until December 30, 2016 or until all funds are committed. Only CHP systems installed at sites that pay the System Benefits Charge (SBC) are eligible for incentives.

After Hurricane Sandy, Governor Cuomo announced three commissions, NYS 2100, NYS Ready and NYS Response, to improve the State’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities, and to strengthen the state's infrastructure to withstand natural disasters.

This week’s announcement aligns with a recommendation within the NYS 2100 Commission Report that NYSERDA should expand its incentive programs for distributed generation resources, including CHP, and provide preference to those facilities that will serve as refuge during storm outages.

Over the past 12 years, NYSERDA has invested more than $100 million in CHP technology. This has helped to cut energy costs and reduce the energy use of industrial, commercial, institutional and multifamily residences.




Edited by Brooke Neuman
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