In “a milestone for the moment,” construction on a new resilient energy facility in East Williamsburg — which will prevent blackouts and brownouts for local residents as well as provide sustainable energy alternatives — has commenced.

The new facility is being built by MicroGrid Networks, a New York City-based company that builds and operates resilient clean energy generation and storage systems, facilities and networks in the city’s densest urban environments.

The new $12 million facility will bolster the local energy network with 20 megawatt-hours of utility-grade battery storage and solar; provide emergency power to local residents and businesses in the event of an outage; and help make the network cleaner, more efficient and reliable.

By increasing wind and solar energy outputs, the facility also reduces the need for and reliance upon fossil-fueled. The sustainable power supply will also be able to run during times of peak demand, reducing the risk of local blackouts and brownouts in the nearby residential and industrial areas.

“This groundbreaking in North Brooklyn isn’t just a milestone of the moment, it’s a celebration of innovation for the future,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said.

“Microgrids can provide Brooklyn communities with network resiliency and efficiency, ultimately paving the way to a sustainable future, especially for communities who have experienced environmental injustice and the disproportionate siting of fossil-fueled resources.”

The facility will also include fast electric vehicle chargers that will be open to the public. MGN says the project will create at least 12 direct jobs and more than 48 indirect jobs.

Monty Bannerman, the CEO of MicroGrid Networks, said the fundamental purpose of the company was to deploy new energy infrastructure deep into neighborhoods that had the most congested networks and were most at risk.

“To ultimately demonstrate a model which shows that it’s possible to erect a defensive infrastructure against extreme weather and tidal events and at the same time deliver economic development, investment in the community, resiliency, and environmental justice where it is needed most,” Bannerman said.

He said the facilities would spread benefits within local communities, including creating good jobs and business for local contractors and service providers. “And when all else fails, we want everybody in that local community to feel comfort knowing that there is at least one place that they can go to where the power is on, and they can communicate to their families and neighbors that they’re okay.”

Microgrids, such as the one being built in East Williamsburg, run distributed energy resources into the local grid, provide flexibility and help to reduce grid congestion and peak loads.

MGN says that the current electric grid system is centralized, inefficient and highly reliant on fossil-fueled resources, and to achieve greenhouse gas reductions it must transformed. However, without storage it’s difficult for solar and wind to be viable sources of energy as they are intermittent and are non-dispatchable. That’s where MGN’s microgrid battery storage systems come in: allowing energy to be dispatched on demand.

The company predicts that in the coming years, there will be a substantial increase in demand for electricity due to decarbonization goals and the electrification of buildings and transportation sectors.

MicroGrid Networks CEO with students from PS 257. Photo: Supplied.

Locally distributed energy resources, especially battery storage, will be imperative to the clean energy transition to achieve emission reductions targets, increase the reliability of the local distribution networks in NYC and advance environmental justice, it says.

For Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers, it’s about planning for the future.

“If we’re going to meet all of our climate, sustainability or renewable energy goals…we’re going to do a lot of work…from vehicles to building retrofits to sustainable energy generation…to microgrids that support the local network,” Peers said.

“Someone would say, ‘Hey, five megawatts, what’s that?’ But well, let me say this. That’s five megawatts of reliability. I lived through three blackouts in New York City that could [have been] mitigated and prevented by facilities like this.”

The facility, which is also MGN’s HQ, is set to be complete in the Spring of 2023.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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