Microgrid

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Contributing Writer

Paul Leone

Former esteemed mayor of Jamestown, Samuel A. Carlson, largely credited with the establishment of municipal electricity production in the city, must be smiling. The seventeen million dollar award granted to the Jamestown BPU under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program (GRIP) is a twenty-first century continuation of public initiatives to upgrade local electricity delivery systems. The program requires a matching local contribution in the amount of five million, seven hundred thousand dollars. GRIP is a feature of the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act signed into law by the Biden administration on November 15, 2021. It goes without saying that the BPU and city officials are delighted that Jamestown was selected as one of fifty-eight municipalities nationwide to receive the award. Mayor Carlson, committed advocate for the interests of the working class, would be additionally pleased that, according to the BPU’s commitment, all work necessary to implement the microgrid will be performed by union labor.

What is a microgrid? Essentially a backup delivery system. Brad Bentley, Energy and Gas Resource manager at the BPU, tells the Gazette that a microgrid is designed “to handle the existing power load during peak times.” Meaning that the funding provided will enable the BPU to deliver “reliable and resilient” electricity during power outages resulting from severe snowstorms or other emergencies.

The BPU should be commended for seizing upon the opportunity to receive the microgrid grant. When the DOE made public the outlines of the GRIP program, the BPU administration under the leadership of General Manager Dave Leathers submitted in March 2022 to the DOE a “concept paper” arguing the merits and technological capabilities of the BPU. Not long after, the BPU received favorable notice on the submission. In time the BPU’s formal application was accepted by the DOE. The city and the BPU must now complete the paperwork within one hundred, twenty days to finalize the contract.

The microgrid is an addition to and separate from the current regional delivery system. According to the BPU, however, the microgrid system will utilize existing power generation equipment and underground electrical distribution circuitry to “energize a resilient network.” The microgrid will impact most specifically downtown Jamestown and also provide electricity for public services, schools, shelters, the city hospital and local businesses in emergency situations. In addition the system is capable of charging electric vehicles during power outages.

Mayor Carlson’s pursuit of municipal electricity production was a long and often bitter contest. Carlson was labeled a radical and criticized in the newspapers. I can’t help but believe that Jamestown’s public ownership of the city’s electricity generating capacity factored in to the DOE’s decision to award the city this grant.

Congratulations, BPU.