Robust District Energy/Microgrids Provide Enhanced Reliability from Severe Weather

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International District Energy Association to host Climate Summit for more resilient community energy systems.

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During Super Storm Sandy, when electricity service was interrupted to over 8 million people across the tri-state region and beyond, the district energy microgrids [...] maintained energy services to provide heat and lights for their occupants.

Worldwide, the severity and frequency of extreme weather events resulting in extended power outages and economic disruption are leading public officials to focus on community resiliency and the need for more robust energy infrastructure. With over $112 billion in economic losses in the US due to severe weather in 2012, events like Super Storm Sandy bring focus to how cities, communities and campuses will need to adapt in order to minimize interruptions, support mission-critical operations and provide areas of refuge for citizen safety. One proven approach that is gaining recognition as a solution is district energy with combined heat & power (CHP), which helps communities fortify urban infrastructure, diversify energy resources, deliver savings and reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions.

District energy systems incorporate central plants and robust underground piping networks to provide the heating and cooling needs of multiple buildings, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of buildings in a city, community, campus setting or military base. The central plant(s) can also integrate cogeneration to produce electricity, heating and cooling that when controlled as a local “microgrid” can isolate itself from the regional power grid to provide power and comfort to customers when grid electricity is interrupted by severe weather or events. These systems operate at very high efficiencies and can offer greater reliability due to proximity of power supply. With the advantages of community scale, district energy systems also make it possible to utilize sustainable, local energy supplies like biomass, urban wood waste, geothermal, surplus industrial heat or even cold lake water for district cooling, thereby reducing environmental impact and keeping energy dollars re-circulating with multiplier effect in the local economy.

“During Super Storm Sandy, when electricity service was interrupted to over 8 million people across the tri-state region and beyond, the district energy microgrids at Princeton University, Cornell University, Fairfield University and Co-Op City in the Bronx maintained energy services to provide heat and lights for their occupants,” says Rob Thornton, President & CEO of International District Energy Association. “Our campuses have been the proving grounds for microgrids and representatives from these systems will be sharing best practice guidance at the upcoming Global District Energy Climate Summit in New York City Sept 23-24, 2013.”

The International Energy Agency will be recognizing many such outstanding examples of resiliency through the Global District Energy Climate Awards at the Summit at the Hudson Theater on September 23, 2013. Some case examples are outlined below and there is much more information about systems under consideration for 2013 Awards here.

  • The Riverbay District Energy/CHP Plant in Co-Op City, Bronx, NY, continued to supply lighting, heat and hot water for their 60,000 residents during Super Storm Sandy. If Co-Op City were an official city and not just the largest co-operative housing community in the US, it would rank among the top 500 cities in the nation and the 10th largest in New York State.
  • Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, recently integrated a new 30 megawatt combined heat & power facility which is integral to the university’s plan to reduce campus net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The new plant provides increased reliability campus wide and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 11,000 cars from the road.
  • When the powerful storm knocked out the grid, Princeton University’s district energy microgrid was able to isolate and maintain power, heating and cooling to the university while the storm uprooted trees, damaged power lines and interrupted service throughout the Princeton township.
  • District energy microgrids at Fairfield University, New York University, the College of New Jersey, and numerous other locations maintained operations and provided areas of refuge while storm damage knocked out power across their respective communities.

As part of the Global District Energy Climate Summit in New York City on September 23, the International Energy Agency (IEA), in conjunction with International District Energy Association and Euroheat & Power, will present the 2013 Global District Energy Climate Awards to systems from around the globe that have achieved high levels of reliability and sustainability. The list of award winners has not been released and will be presented on September 23 at the Gala Awards Dinner. Media attendance is highly encouraged, and applications for complimentary press passes can be found here.

About International District Energy Association: The International District Energy Association (IDEA) is a nonprofit industry association founded in 1909 with headquarters near Boston, MA. Membership includes district energy and CHP system managers, engineers, consultants and equipment suppliers from 25 countries.

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Robert Thornton
since: 12/2009
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