'Microgrids' To Bring Green Backup Energy To Fairfield

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Photovoltaic panels like these would go onto town-owned buildings if Fairfield's microgrid project gets approval from the state. Photo Credit: Lucas Braun via Creative Commons
Assistant Public Works Director Ed Boman has brought many renewable energy programs to Fairfield. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel (File)

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield has plans to start producing its own electricity through renewable sources, which would keep the town’s vital services running through major blackouts like Hurricane Sandy.

The town hopes to win a state grant to cover costs to install “microgrids” in the downtown Fairfield area. If Fairfield wins the grant it would add “green” energy sources to town buildings, which would be linked together to keep power flowing even if the main grid went dark.

Public Works Assistant Director Ed Boman explained last week that though the town was preparing the plans for months, recent storms offered a good example of its usefulness.

“It seems fitting that the application comes just after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to so many in Fairfield,” Boman said.

The plan includes installing solar energy-producing photovoltaic panels on the Fire Department headquarters and the town’s covered landfill. The town would also expand its backup diesel- and natural-gas-powered generator systems at the police station and its public works garage.

Fairfield’s wastewater treatment plant would also host two eco-friendly power generators. One is a system that creates power out of the methane given off by the plant itself. The machine simultaneously removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and creates emissions-free power.

The same facility would also house a natural gas-burning fuel cell that generates electricity with little to no carbon emissions. The cell would be housed in town buildings but managed by a private company, which would then sell the power back to Fairfield at a discounted rate.

All power sources would be linked together via underground cables to keep them online even if United Illuminating’s power went out on a large scale. Fairfield plans to set up two independent microgrids. One would power the main police and fire stations and Operation Hope’s homeless shelter. The other would run between Fairfield’s Public Works garage, the Solid Waste and Recycling Center and the wastewater treatment plant.

Much of the technology depends on a grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), which is awarded in February. But Fairfield might have an inside track. As a leading advocate for alternative energy in Fairfield County, Boman helped design the program with DEEP Commissioner Daniel Etsy.

“What we’re looking at today is really a function of some of the input and feedback Mr. Boman has into the rules and regs for microgrids that allow us to take advantage of this program,” First Selectman Michael Tetreau said last week.

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