New York Launches Innovation Lab To Study Renewable Energy and the Advanced Grid

This week New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the signing of an agreement between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Polytechnic) that aims “to create a world-class facility devoted to energy technology innovation and the rapid deployment of smart-grid technology to modernize New York’s electric grid.”

Dubbed AGILe (Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy), the lab would be New York state’s first electric power and development facility. Making use of “Big Data” analytics, AGILe researchers will “simulate, develop, deploy and integrate the next-generation electric grid and position New York State as a global center for electric grid research,” NYPA explained.

Seeded with an initial $35 million of capital from NYPA, many of the details of the project remain to be worked out. What there isn’t any doubt of is that under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has been assembling the elements of one of the most comprehensive and integrated new energy policy frameworks in the U.S., if not the world. 

A Hub for New Energy Technology

With Governor Cuomo leading the way, New York’s is one of a small but growing group of state governments spearheading a fundamental transformation and restructuring of the U.S. power industry and electricity markets. The aim: promote and help sustain the transition to a distributed infrastructure of power generation, storage, transmission and distribution assets centered as much or more on local renewable energy resources and energy efficiency than the current centralized system that relies primarily on massive fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Along with rapid growth in renewable energy generation capacity, a mix of fast-emerging new energy technologies — from advanced metering infrastructure and energy storage solutions to building-integrated solar (BIPV) — is driving the first fundamental restructuring of the U.S. energy industry and electricity grids and market structure since the dawn of the “Electrical Age.”

“By building a world-class research and development facility that is focused on improving New York’s energy infrastructure, we are making a major investment in our state’s future,” Governor Cuomo was quoted in a news release. “This facility will cement New York’s position at the cutting-edge of clean energy technology, and create a new generation of high-paying, energy-related tech jobs in the process. I am pleased to see the project moving forward as we continue working to build a stronger and cleaner state for all New Yorkers.”

Project partners anticipate that researching, developing and testing smart grid technology at AGILe will: 

  • Help transmission and distribution operators identify ways to reduce strains on the system during peak usage periods;
  • Reduce the cost of transmission and distribution congestion by increasing access to lower-cost generating resources;
  • Expedite the integration of renewable-energy resources into the grid;
  • Expand grid-scale energy storage options;
  • Advance the deployment and reduce the cost of new, small-scale, clean generation;
  • Increase access to sustainable green power resources statewide;
  • Attract private-sector technology companies in the energy, information and communications sectors, utilities, grid operators and university research institutions to invest in and conduct cutting-edge research and development at AGILe. 

Newer electrical system technologies, such as advanced transmission system monitoring sensors, increasing electric vehicle stations, and microgrids, need to be tested in an advanced laboratory setting before they can be deployed. By simulating the impact of expected changes to the grid, researchers can better understand the impacts and design system improvements to accommodate these emerging technologies and improve real-time operations. These simulations can lower grid improvement costs and enable a better response to conditions that could threaten power reliability and quality.

Further, the lab will serve to help develop analytical tools so utilities can readily convert data from grid sensors to rapidly respond to challenges or threats to the grid. AGILe research is also intended to aid utilities in making their transmission and generation operations more efficient and to help integrate renewable energy resources into the power grid.

Envisaged as a broad-reaching public-private partnership, at inception AGILe is strictly an undertaking by New York academic institutions, NYPA media and corporate relations project manager Julieanne Sullivan told Establishing public-private partnerships is one of the key recommendations put forth by the governor’s Energy Highway Task Force,” which aims to fast-track New York’s development as a hub for new energy technology development and deployment.

New York’s “Reform the Energy Vision” Strategy

“AGILe is also consistent with the Governor’s comprehensive Reforming the Energy Vision plan to revolutionize electric transmission and generation infrastructure while developing a clean, reliable and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers,” NYPA points out.

AGILe project partners and the Cuomo administration expect that the state’s commitment and the resources NYPA and SUNY Polytechnic bring to the project, along with numerous other mutually reinforcing new energy initiatives launched during Gov. Cuomo’s tenure, will spark interest, and investments, from a wide range of private sector power industry players, from the large and well-established to young, small, innovative startup and aspiring market entrants.

At this early stage AGILe project team members have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and framework for project management in place, Sullivan added. Producing a comprehensive and accurate overall budget for the project, for instance, will depend on the outcome of numerous other project aspects, she pointed out, including choosing an AGILe project site. Project team members are exploring various options in searching for a suitable site in the Albany area, including retrofitting an existing facility, Sullivan elaborated. Further down the line will be conducting a search for design, engineering, procurement and construction partners, which will comply fully with state standards. 

Lead image: New York Map in Green. Credit: Shutterstock.

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Andrew reports on renewable energy, clean technology and other issues and topics from posts abroad and here in the US.

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