East Lyme to pursue state grant for microgrid
East Lyme — The town is pursuing an opportunity for a state grant for a potential microgrid that would provide power to critical infrastructure, including the community center and two schools, even during storms.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is offering grants for microgrids as part of a program the state created after several storm-related power outages, according to DEEP's website. The program "is designed to help create ways to ensure that critical buildings remain powered during electrical grid outages," the website states.
The Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday for the town to execute a letter of engagement with the Michaud Law Group, a law firm specializing in renewable energy and microgrids, to start the grant application process.
First Selectman Mark Nickerson said the town at this point is seeking the opportunity to potentially receive the DEEP grant and would at a later stage look at a contract with a vendor to install a microgrid.
During a presentation at a joint meeting of the boards of education and selectmen last week, representatives of the Michaud Law Group and the ECG Group, which will provide technical assistance, said they will prepare a request for proposals and then analyze the microgrid proposals on behalf of the town. The town will not pay any fees, they said.
If the town then selects a microgrid contractor, the contractor would prepare a grant application to submit to DEEP by the end of the year, according to the presentation. DEEP is expected to announce grant recipients in March 2018. The contractor also would pay any fees for the law group and ECG.
Attorney Paul Michaud of Michaud Law Group said the microgrid would provide energy when the power grid is working. In addition, when the power grid goes down during blackouts, the microgrid would become an "island" and continue to run.
Michaud said the microgrid not only would provide resiliency, but also save the town money and energy.
The microgrid, with a fuel cell that potentially would be located in the vicinity of the Lillie B. Haynes School, would serve the school and nearby facilities, including a sewer pump station, the community center and the middle school, which is a seven-town emergency shelter during storms.
If the town moves forward with the project, the Michaud Law Group and the ECG Group would negotiate a power purchase agreement with Doosan Fuel Cell in which the town would buy a certain amount of electricity at 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour less than the grid rate over a 20-year period, according to the presentation.