Microgrids: A Utility’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Cornell an exemplary microgrid system...

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By Chris Nelder via Greentech Grid, 5/23/13

.... Several university microgrids have served as critical disaster recovery havens in the aftermath of natural disasters, including a 13.4-megawatt system at New York University-Washington Square Park, a 3.6-megawatt system at Utica College in New York, a 1-megawatt system at Tohoku Fukushi University in Japan, and a 37-megawatt microgrid at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The Cornell system is powered by a dual-fuel combined heat and power (CHP) plant that can burn natural gas or diesel, plus a 1-megawatt hydropower generator and a small solar installation.

Microgrids are big-ticket items, but for those who can afford them, they seem to be reasonable investments. The $71 million White Oak project is expected to save the FDA about $11 million a year. The return on the roughly $60 million Cornell University project [PDF] is expected to be “consistent with the long-term rate of return of the endowment and in the range of 8 percent to 10 percent.” For a military base, of course, being self-reliant is “priceless.”

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