Brooklyn, the Next Solar City?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Brooklyn may soon join Freiburg, Germany in a growing movement of solar cities, or cities that live completely off the electrical grid with the help of solar power. Over a decade ago, Rolf Disch designed Freiburg’s solar infrastructure, which produces 4 times as much energy as the city consumes. In February of this year, Governor Cuomo announced the state’s $40 million NY Prize energy competition, which will provide funding for designing and building microgrids across the state. Up to 10 communities can earn $7 million to support construction of a microgrid. Vying for that prize is a proposal for the Gowanus and Park Slope neighborhood, called the Brooklyn Microgrid. The project would allow the borough to power itself even when the main grid is down during times of emergency or extreme weather.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

As defined by the Department of Energy, a microgrid is a group of interconnected energy resources that connects and disconnects from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island mode. This is especially useful in times of extreme weather or other emergencies, since the microgrid can keep powering itself even when the main grid shuts down by operating in island mode. In case of an event like Superstorm Sandy, homes that are part of the Brooklyn Micogrid will be able to disconnect from the main grid and won’t lose power. The microgrid will also mitigate energy loss, as 6% of the electricity generated and transferred from power plants is lost in transmission. Considering the average power plant produces 2,000 megawatts a day, the proposal has potential to save a lot of energy.

The Brooklyn Microgrid proposal has identified the steps it will take during the first phase of the project, which will include identifying critical infrastructure upgrades; promoting clean, renewable electricity and energy efficiency; and creating new financial incentives to drive community involvement in the project. Now, all that’s needed is for the proposal to move forward in the state’s competition. Residents of the Gowanus and Park Slope neighborhoods can sign a petition to show the NY Prize team their support for the project.

If you’re interested in joining the microgrid, you can request a free assessment from the Brooklyn Microgrid team. For updates on the project, you can sign up to receive premium content through Facebook. Or, if you want to learn more about microgrids in general, you can read more on the NYS SmartGrid Consortium website.

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