Sunday, May 19, 2024

PSUC students, staff participate in microgrid study

A feasibility study is in the works for a microgrid in the city of Plattsburgh.

The point of this microgrid is to provide backup power to key institutions in the city in the event of a blackout.

The microgrid would have several locations in the city: the Plattsburgh State campus, Plattsburgh High School, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Meadowbrook Nursing Home and Villas Nursing Home. Talks are currently in progress to incorporate Plattsburgh Housing Authority as a sixth partner of the microgrid.

This is part of a competition called New York Prize, sponsored by the New York State Energy, Research and Development Authority, also known as NYSERDA. It takes place in three stages: Stage one is the feasibility study; stage two is the design of the microgrid; and stage three is its implementation and construction.

Kim Bailey, a PSUC graduate student who is helping with the project, said there are additional steps to the feasibility study as well.

Engineers hired for the project have developed microgrid capabilities in September and October and are in the process of developing a preliminary technical design. An assessment of the microgrid’s financial and commercial feasibility will take place in November and December, with a cost-benefit analysis anticipated from the second half of December to the first half of January.

After that, the final feasibility study will be submitted to NYSERDA in February.

PSUC Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Curt Gervich and Associate Professor of Sociology Lauren Eastwood co-signed the grant proposal that allowed the feasibility study to take place.

Gervich said he had heard about the New York Prize employee from Sal Graven, a NYSERDA employee and SUNY Plattsburgh trustee.

“He brought it to our attention as something he thought the campus might look into,” Gervich said. “In order to proceed with a microgrid, which is this kind of independent electricity grid, you have to get all of the partners of all the different facilities that would be involved on board, so our first step was to reach out to the hospital.”

He said there has been a great sense of support with all facilities with which PSUC has partnered.

“We’ve all met periodically throughout the summer and throughout the fall to talk about the logistics of doing this study,” Gervich said. “This involves collecting lots of data about how much energy or how much electricity each building uses or each of the organizations uses.”

He said there is also attention to not only how much each organization uses, but at what time of day peak usage occurs as well.

“It’s a lot different for us than the hospital,” Gervich said. “We use a lot of power late in the evening. The dorms are all on, and everybody’s got computers running. The hospital runs from 8 to 5, essentially, so they use power at different times.”

He said each facility has a different type of heater, generator, cooling system and so on.

“If we’re going to create something that links them together, we’ve got to basically use the right plugs,” Gervich said. “We have … an electrical engineer who’s helping with that part, and that’s all doable. There are technologies that get all these different things to link up together. The harder part, I think, is trying to understand the economic component: So what would a microgrid cost?”
He said cost-effectiveness is part of what is currently being studied.

Patrick Montuori, a double major in environmental science and geology, said that Plattsburgh’s power is hydroelectric and comes from Niagara Falls. He, Bailey, and fellow PSUC students Antwan Clark and Aaron Baltich-Schecter, have been trying to bring this microgrid to life.

Montuori said he is receiving an independent-study credit for his involvement with the microgrid.

Gervich said there will be a forum for Plattsburgh’s on-campus and off-campus communities. Students will run the forum and give a presentation. The partners will read prepared statements, and this will be a chance for residents to ask about the microgrid. PSUC students, clubs and classes are welcome to attend.

“If we had a major blackout or an issue with a larger power grid, campus would still be supported,” Montuori said.

Email Tim Lyman at

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