The tropical storms and blizzards of the past few years have exposed the flaws of the network for delivering electricity, known as the grid: widespread power outages lasting, in some cases, for several days.
But what if the regional system could be bypassed, allowing pockets of readily restored electricity? That's the concept behind what are known as microgrids, which provide power to small areas when the larger grid is crippled. It's an innovative idea.
Under a pilot program chiefly funded by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, nine microgrids costing about $2 million apiece will be set up in areas as diverse as Hartford, Storrs, Fairfield and Woodbridge. The concept is similar to a home or business backup generator, except on a larger scale.
Not all the microgrids will work the same way. Hartford's, in the Parkville neighborhood on the city's west side, will be run by a gas turbine. It will provide electricity to a senior center, a school, a supermarket and other nearby facilities.
The one in Storrs will be powered by a fuel cell and solar panels, and will support parts of UConn's Depot campus.
But the result will be largely similar: The energy infrastructure will be more resilient, providing power for vulnerable people and institutions.
The statewide microgrid proposal — the nation's first — was recommended by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and approved by the legislature in 2012 as part of what was known as the storm bill. They deserve credit for finding new ways to deal with the reality of predicted harsher weather.
Mr. Malloy has recommended that the legislature authorize a further $30 million for expanding the microgrids to other Connecticut communities beyond the initial nine. It's hard to think of reasons why this shouldn't be done. The next crippling storm will provide a further reminder of the wisdom of addressing the reality of extreme weather.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun