• Resilience
  • DER
  • DER Technologies
  • Utilities
  • Grid Resilience

State Governments, Utilities, and DER Technology Providers Work to Improve Resiliency as Hurricane Season Hits

Alex Eller
Sep 27, 2018

Overhead Power Lines 1

Hurricane Florence is the first major storm to hit the US east coast in 2018. It has caused widespread flooding and electrical outages throughout the region. The increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms in recent years, particularly the devastating 2017 season, has led to intensified efforts to improve the resiliency of the electrical grid through the integration of new distributed energy resource (DER) technologies. State governments, utilities, and DER technology providers throughout the region are working to reduce the impact of future storms.

State Support for New Projects

 

Following the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, state governments along the East Coast have enacted programs to fund the development of projects that enhance grid resiliency. Most of these efforts have focused on building microgrid systems for critical community facilities that incorporate both renewable and conventional generation along with energy storage and intelligent control systems. States offering grants for new resiliency projects include: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Many of these programs have evolved over the past 5 years but continue to play an important role in resiliency efforts and the overall growth of the region’s DER market.

Utility Efforts

 

Utilities in the eastern US have mainly focused their resiliency efforts on grid infrastructure upgrades with more traditional technologies. While these projects have been ongoing for many years, the destruction from hurricanes in the past 2 years has accelerated efforts. Utility efforts have included replacing vulnerable wooded power line poles with concrete or metal, decreasing the distance between poles to limit the impact of high winds, and adding new underground lines. Resiliency projects also include flood mitigation measures, primarily targeting vulnerable substations by raising critical equipment further off the ground.

In addition to these more conventional approaches, utilities are also encouraging customers to adopt DER that can provide resiliency during extreme weather and customer benefits during normal conditions. Vermont utility Green Mountain Power saw extensive flooding in its service territory during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It now offers subsidized residential batteries and off-grid energy solutions to its customers. While backup power is a key driver in the utility’s successful program, the main financial benefit is a reduction in Green Mountain Power’s overall peak demand and associated grid expenses through an aggregated virtual power plant. This benefit was proven this summer as the utility saved an estimated $500,000 during a heat wave in July. Another utility offering to subsidize residential batteries for its customers in a hurricane-prone area is the Jacksonville Electric Authority Board in Florida, which offers a rebate up to 30% of the cost of a new system.

Technology Providers Leading the Way

 

While state government and utilities take a more top-down approach to grid resiliency, leading DER vendors are collaborating to deploy their technology from the bottom up. Perhaps the most notable recent example is the del Sol Foundation for Energy Security, a non-profit organization launched by residential battery provider sonnen and other organizations. The organization aims to deploy up to 3,000 solar + storage microgrid systems throughout critical facilities in Puerto Rico as the island continues to recover from the impact of last year’s Hurricane Maria. These systems would backup key appliances including refrigeration, lighting, electric cooking, water filtration, and cell phone charging with solar electricity in the event of a grid outage. The group plans to focus on outfitting churches, community centers, schools, and hospitals which have the greatest need for resiliency and serve as shelters during hurricanes.