“Something good came out of something horrible.” Thus did Town of New Paltz supervisor Susan Zimet characterize the new spirit of amity and cooperation that seems suddenly to have sprung up between her Town Board and the New Paltz Village Board, in the wake of bitter controversy in the community over how to resolve the need for sewer infrastructure in order to foster light industrial development in the Putt Corners Road corridor. At no time in recent memory have the leaders of the two municipalities demonstrated such willingness to set aside incompatibilities of personal style, roll up their sleeves and get to work on common challenges as they did at the joint board meeting held on February 26. Progress was made on issues of major import including sewage problems and the need for an intermunicipal Comprehensive Plan, as well as less earthshaking questions like who would absorb the costs of the insurance rider for the upcoming New Paltz Regatta (the village, as it turned out). Both the town and the village also jumped feet first into a new opportunity to compete for New York State funding to plan and build a model electrical microgrid in New Paltz.
Microgrid funding seems likely
The NY Prize microgrid grant program, just announced by Governor Cuomo on February 11, will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) with support from the governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. A total of $40 million will be awarded to foster the development of sustainable, community-scale electrical generation microgrids, for the purposes of preventing disruptions in the power supply during weather emergencies, especially to “critical infrastructure” like hospitals, first responders and water treatment facilities.
The program is a three-tiered competition, with up to $100,000 provided to each of 25 to 30 applicants to conduct feasibility studies for the development of microgrids. Of these, up to ten communities deemed “most suited for a microgrid” based on the results of the studies will each receive $1 million to “conduct a detailed engineering design and business plan. Funding of up to $7 million will be available in the third phase of the program to help support construction of a microgrid.”
Local matching funds will be required in the second and third phases, and the program is encouraging public/private partnerships, including participation by regional utility companies and SUNY colleges. “Central Hudson has already identified New Paltz as a place where a microgrid would serve the community well,” Zimet averred. She also said that the local NYSERDA liaison for Ulster County, Pat Courtney, had urged her that to submit an application, saying that New Paltz was one of the locations specifically identified by that agency as an obvious target site.
The microgrid would have to be potentially self-sustaining based on local alternative energy generation, hooked up to the statewide power grid but capable of being detached in an emergency situation. Besides keeping the lights on during major power outages, a microgrid would feed sustainably sourced power into the state’s supply on an ongoing basis, “spur new business models and community partnerships to increase reliability and reduce costs for consumers.”
Both the town and village boards were unanimous in their enthusiasm for the opportunity, which appears to have a better-than-average chance of being funded, based on the supervisor’s information. They voted to authorize Zimet and village mayor Jason West to work on a joint application, which is due to the state in May.