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A new competition encourages local energy solutions in extreme weather

Thomas Schmidt

The Cuomo administration has announced a $40 million competition designed to encourage local energy solutions for extreme weather conditions. The problem at hand is an aging electrical infrastructure in New York state and the nation. The solution may be a "microgrid."

The NY-Prize competition challenges innovators to design smaller community-based electrical grid systems, supplementing the nation's system which hasn't been upgraded for decades.

Eric Hittinger, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says microgrids could use more renewable energy and keep power close to the source.

"It also makes the grid a lot more resilient. If you can generate your own electricity, if the rest of the grid goes down, you still have the lights on," Hittinger said.

But, Hittinger also sees a possible downside.

"So, a microgrid in New York state will probably produce electricity at two or three times the cost of getting electricity from the existing grid," he said.