Micro Grids Fight for Independence from Regional Grid

According to the Burlington Free Press, the summer heat wave of 2006 cost businesses in Stamford, Connecticut, tens of millions of dollars due to resulting power failures. Fears about aging and unreliable electric transmission systems coupled with skyrocketing energy costs could hurt many cities’ efforts to recruit new business and keep existing firms.

Some cities—including Sacramento, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Chicago—are considering new micro grid districts, in which neighboring companies band together to produce their own electric power. The concept is already popular among communities in Europe. Within these special zones, sometimes referred to as “energy independence districts,” businesses, government buildings and office buildings can design and create their own power source, using a fuel cell or natural gas generator, with the regional electric grid serving only as a backup. They might also tap into underground aquifers and use that water for heating and cooling purposes or even install solar panels to capture more energy. The entities in the district would essentially plan an electrical system that uses the energy efficiently, based on the micro grid’s needs.

In Connecticut, Stamford officials continue to lobby state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing the formation of micro grids. There are two bills that would create such districts, which would be able to finance an energy project through the sale of municipal tax-exempt bonds.

Proponents argue the micro districts are a way to improve electric reliability and combat skyrocketing prices as well as reduce the state’s demand for electricity. EC

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