A Microgrid Grows in Brooklyn: Innovating Energy Solutions through REV’s NYPrize Competition

by Paige Medley

The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) is currently running NY Prize, a $40 million competition to incentivize communities throughout New York State to develop microgrids. Working with Smarter Grid Solutions, I had the opportunity to be a co-author of the Stage 1 Feasibility Study of the Red Hook Community Microgrid (RH-CMG). The Feasibility Study examined the costs and practicality of installing a community microgrid in Red Hook that would use PV Solar, Anaerobic Digestion, Battery Backup and Gas Generators to deliver emergency power backup in times of grid outage, and deliver clean reliable and locally-produced electricity to the grid in times of non-outage.

diagram of microgrid
This diagram shows how a microgrid works

What is a Microgrid? First imagine a traditional electric grid as a long line of dominoes. Each domino represents the lines and wires that provide homes and businesses with electricity. The flick of one domino results in the total collapse of the entire line. However, if there are smaller separate clusters of dominos, (think of these as microgrids), which could either connect or disconnect from the long line of dominoes, one would, using the same metaphor, prevent fewer homes or businesses from losing electricity when there is grid failure at one point on the domino line. Microgrids enable more renewable energy or distributed generation (DG) resources to connect to the overall grid.

map of micro project
This map displays the span of the Red Hook microgrid project

Why Red Hook? Hurricane Sandy made it abundantly clear that Red Hook, Brooklyn is one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods to storm damage and flooding, especially considering the stability of the local electricity supply. While 95% of NYC residents had power restored within 11 days of the blackout, it took the city almost a full month to restore power to the Red Hook community. Additionally, Red Hook experiences more non-emergency power outages than almost any other community in NYC due to the vulnerability of the grid infrastructure. When you walk around Red Hook you can clearly see these vulnerabilities whether it be in the low-hanging power lines, the fact that the entire neighborhood has overhead wiring (instead of underground wires), or just by looking at the aging infrastructure.

Smarter Grid Solutions Contribution: In partnership with Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6, the Red Hook New York Rising Community Reconstruction Planning Committee, and IMG Rebel, Smarter Grid Solutions helped to develop the Stage 1 Feasibility Study for the RH-CMG. My work on this included determining the energy needs of each building and the associated critical loads, determining the distributed generation system sizes that would be required to meet these loads, and developing a financial analysis of the overall cost to construct the project.

Many of the skills I used to contribute to the RH-CMG feasibility study I learned from the professors either in NYU’s Global Affairs Program or as an Undergraduate in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies Program. As a Master’s Candidate in the program with a focus on Energy & Environmental Policy, professors including Chris Gadomski, William Nelson, and Sunder Narayanan taught me the technical skills I needed to assist Smarter Grid Solutions’ RH-CMG Project Lead (and NYU Adjunct Faculty Member) Jeremiah Miller. The next Stage of NY Prize will be to formally design the microgrid including detailed technical designs and configuration, a detailed project construction and commissioning proposal, in addition to detailed project costs and financial viability. I look forward to helping Smarter Grid Solutions and the entire RH-CMG team in achieving the ultimate goal of constructing the microgrid, which would help thousands of Red Hook residents and serve as a model for other cities and water-front neighborhoods looking to achieve a stable, clean, and affordable electric supply.

Through my work with Smarter Grid Solutions, I won the #irev4NY Challenge, a Twitter campaign that invited New Yorkers to share personal stories, through photos and tweets, about how they are supporting Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. New York University is proud partner on the Governor’s efforts to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system throughout New York State. In April, NYU was recognized as a Leader in the REV Campus Challenge, demonstrating a commitment to embracing and investing in a clean energy future.


Paige Medley is an Energy Consultant who has worked in the energy industry for half a decade. She is currently an M.S. Candidate in NYU’s Global Affairs program with a focus on Energy & Environmental Policy. Her professional career began as a research associate for Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, after which she worked as a Solar Analyst for EnterSolar, and is currently working with Smarter Grid Solutions to help utilities modernize their electric grid.

Smarter Grid Solutions has spent ten years researching, developing, deploying and proving our approach to managing the Smart Grid with our Active Network Management DERMS products. We are recognized as thought leaders in this domain. We have worked with and learned from electricity distribution companies, regulatory authorities, university research teams, generation developers, SCADA/DMS suppliers, grid edge device manufacturers, and many others. We have deployed our solutions in cities, in rural areas, and on islands, and have worked with customers in the UK, mainland Europe and North America. No other company in the world has been on quite the same journey.

Watch a video about the project!

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