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April 14, 2016 Connecticut Green Guide

Hartford microgrid construction begins

Contributed photo A Bloom Energy fuel cell located at Life Technologies in California. Bloom technology will power an 800kW microgrid in Hartford that's now under construction.

Four and a half years after a freak October snowstorm knocked out power to more than 800,000 utility customers, Hartford is finally getting its first microgrid.

City officials, electricity supplier Constellation and fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy on Wednesday marked the start of construction of an 800-kilowatt fuel cell in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood.

Under a 15-year power-purchase agreement between the city and Constellation, the microgrid will power Parkville Elementary School, Dwight Branch Library, Parkville Senior Center and Charter Oak Health Center.

If the power goes out, it will also provide emergency power to C-Town Supermarket and a nearby gas station.

Because the microgrid has won acceptance into the state’s Low Emissions Renewable Energy Credits (LREC) program, excess electricity produced by the fuel cell plant will also help lower power costs at four other city schools: Bulkeley High School, Hartford High School, Weaver High School and the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy.

“That’s a win-win for our city — and we hope to build on this model elsewhere in Hartford,” Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement.

The companies expect to complete the microgrid between July and September.

The Oct. 2011 snowstorm that dumped as much as two feet of snow on parts of the state, knocking out power for as long as 11 days for some, spurred officials to turn their gaze towards microgrids as a way to reduce the impact of future outages.

A microgrid is a collection of centrally located businesses and facilities powered by a local source of generation, like a fuel cell or combined-heat-and-power unit, which can operate connected to the grid and in “island mode” during a power outage.

The state awarded $18 million in grants for nine microgrid projects in 2013.

The Parkville microgrid received $2.1 million in that round.

A second round of microgrid grants in 2014 totaling $5.1 million went to Milford and the University of Bridgeport.

That same year, Wesleyan University was the first in the state to power up its microgrid.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly described Constellation's business and misspelled its name.

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